Business and Human Rights

The details
Essex Law School
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Monday 13 January 2025
Friday 21 March 2025
01 July 2024


Requisites for this module



Key module for

LLM M10A12 International Human Rights Law (Economic Relations),
LLM M22212 Corporate Responsibility and Business Law,
LLM M22224 Corporate Responsibility and Business Law,
LLM M1AA12 International Human Rights and Economic Law,
LLM M1AA24 International Human Rights and Economic Law

Module description

This module is designed to look closely at the intersection among principles regulating human rights and related environmental interests on the one hand, and those regulating multinational commercial interests on the other. It will particularly highlight the contrast between the principles underlying commercial activity and the constraints of social and environmental justice.

The module focuses on the human rights responsibilities of private companies as well as those of the public and private institutions providing finance for projects aimed at development in various parts of the world. Throughout it examines the clash and complementarity between the core objectives of these institutions and the demands of human rights protection and the environmental sustainability. The tension between the public-private divide will be specifically addressed.

The module begins with a look at foundation principles in ethics that inform current views of corporate social responsibility. This is followed by a consideration of the applicability of the principles of international law to non-state actors involved in the economy.

From there, attention turns to the responsibilities of multinational corporations and international financial institutions including the World Bank's International Finance Corporation; the private banks grouped together via the Equator Principles; and export credit agencies. This is followed by an examination of international instruments and mechanisms, public and private; voluntary and legally binding, which are specifically addressed to corporate behaviour. This includes The OECD Guidelines; the ILO Tripartite Declaration; the Draft UN Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and the UN's Global Compact.

Module aims

This module is designed give students enough grounding to enable them to engage further subjects in this rapidly growing area as and when they choose to pursue them. There is a growing demand from public and private bodies for those with an understanding of these issues

Module learning outcomes

The module looks closely at the links between law and policy regulating human rights concerns on the one hand, and interests of commercial business – national and multinational - on the other. These two concerns – those of private business and those of human rights standards – are beginning to interact, having previously moved along separate tracks. The interaction is prompted by the increasing awareness of the fact that private companies exercise a degree of power that often goes well beyond that of the states in which they operate. This power of private enterprise can yield social gains. Some of these improvements satisfy the dynamic requirements of human rights. At the same time, however, the projects undertaken might involve abuses. Examples cover a wide range, including the large-scale displacement of local populations for infrastructure or agricultural projects, commercial practices that invade consumer privacy, or abuses of the labour force.

Module information

Please note that LW 917 Trade, Investment, and Human Rights is different in its coverage from LW 922 Business and Human Rights. LW 917 is primarily focused on the role of governments in trade and investment relations, whereas LW 922 focuses on the human rights and environmental impacts of the private commercial corporation, of private lending banks, and of the World Bank, as well as the international norms designed to regulate these bodies.

In addition, students will be invited to work on one or more of the practical projects undertaken by the Essex Business and Human Rights Project (EBHR)

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be taught via weekly 2-hour seminars. The module teaching team will upload all relevant teaching materials on Moodle. You will find reading lists, the textbook, weekly handouts or PPS notes on Moodle. The materials in question are designed both to help you navigate the material to be covered in the seminars and to equip you to analyse the required readings. You will be expected to have completed the required readings in advance of your seminars.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Essay (LW922 Business and Human Rights)    80% 
Practical   Presentation (LW922-7-SP)    20% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Mr Justin Poonjatt, email: j.poonjatt@essex.ac.uk.
Mr Justin Poonjatt
The Law Education Admin Team- pgtlawqueries@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Titilayo Adebola
University of Aberdeen
Lecturer in Law
Available via Moodle
Of 18 hours, 18 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Essex Law School

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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