Business & human rights: the basics (part 1)

For the past decade or so I have been keeping abreast of  developments in business and human rights in Australia and abroad and have just updated an introductory reading list for a forthcoming workshop.  I would like to share the key documents with those of you who need to get across the topic quickly without compromising quality.

Whether you are a law student, a sustainability or corporate responsibility professional or simply an interested individual – if you want to save time sifting through the vast amount of material and wish to get to the substance immediately – look no further. The list of articles below is organised in priority order:

  •  The Global Compact (GC) brochure – with currently more than 10,000 signatories  in over 140 countries it is the largest, voluntary corporate sustainability initiative. The GC was established in 2000 and is evolving constantly with more and more case studies being added on the official website. The GC has often been criticised for not being tough enough on monitoring the implementation of the 10 Principles that make up the Compact but is making all efforts to change that reputation.
  • Ruggie: Protect, Respect and Remedy; A Framework for Business and Human Rights, April 2008  ( 28 pages) report lays the groundwork  for implementation of the responsibility of governments to protect human rights, the responsibility of business to respect human rights and the shared responsibility to ensure  greater access to remedies by victims of human rights abuses.   This framework formed the basis for the Guiding Principles and were welcomed by all sectors as it clearly spelled out each sectors role.
  • The Corporate legal accountability briefing published 20 June 2012 from The Business and Human Rights Resource  Centre (13 pages). This online Resource Centre  is truly the world’s leading independent resource on the subject and a one-stop-shop of business and human rights for all sectors.  The website is updated hourly with news and reports about companies’ human rights impacts worldwide – positive and negative. The Briefing provides a very good overview of international trends and developments in corporate human rights legal cases with a special online portal providing backup information about more than 70 lawsuits worldwide.

There are of course other important contributors to the field including National Human Rights Institutions,  academic institutions and civil society organisations and that is the content for another blog.

For now, happy reading and please feel free to add to the list, comment or ask questions!


  • Andrew Ottaway

    Dear Ulrike,

    thank-you for your email; I found the contents to be of great interest, and I have taken the liberty of sharing the linked document with those who are following my efforts.

    The one guiding resolution that I am hoping to carry-forward throughout 2013 is to maintain pressure on the UK oil and gas exploration and production industry to recognise the rights of their employees to be treated with respect and dignity. Sadly, this industry is stuck firmly in the past when it comes to employee-relations, and productive workers still find themselves blacklisted for having the temerity to raise safety concerns, particularly where those issues are well-known and have been ignored for years.

    May I wish you all the best for 2013, and every success for the future.

    Kindest regards,

    Andrew Ottaway

    • Thank you for sharing the post and your resolution for 2013 and I guess, beyond. You have a big and important task ahead of you!

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