The event, held at the University of Geneva, was held the day after the UN’s prestigious three-day conference in the city on Business and Human Rights where AMBS also became one of the first global business schools to host a panel discussion.
You can find a statement on incorporating human rights in business schools here: business-schools-statement
Ken McPhail, Director of Research at Alliance Manchester Business School, said it was a huge achievement to get up to 20 different business schools in the room to talk about the future of the subject.
“This is very exciting and hugely important for the progression of business and human rights teaching at business schools. There is a really important discussion to be had about the capacity of business schools to play a key role in responding to the big global business challenges.”
Prof McPhail said the teaching of business and human rights was potentially at a significant moment. However he added: “But that significance depends in part on business schools making it significant. Business schools can be really significant agents of change given their amazing access to businesses.”
Michael Posner, Director of New York University Stern Centre for Business and Human Rights, which co-hosted the seminar along with the University of Geneva and AMBS, added: “Human rights is a subject that has been long due for consideration in business education and in today’s globalised economy the role of businesses in protecting human rights is a subject of growing importance.
“Whether addressing labour practices in global manufacturing or agricultural supply chains, security practices in mining operations, or measures to combat political disinformation online, businesses face a range of daunting human rights challenges.”
Rising to the challenge
However he said business schools were not changing as fast as businesses were changing. “For instance, how do big businesses relate to weak governments? What are the specific challenges for people leading big businesses today? This was the first meeting ever of business educators to talk about the teaching and research agenda in this field.”
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, also addressed the seminar and said there was strong support for the wider agenda. “From what we see students have a real appetite for business and human rights.”
Ken McPhail from AMBS and Michael Posner from New York University Stern Centre for Business and Human Rights discuss business and human rights research and teaching in business schools below: