MORGANTOWN – In 2011, the United Nations established the first set of global standards for preventing businesses from violating human rights by adopted the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Four years later, a new book has emerged courtesy of a WVU College of Law conference in September 2013. “The Business and Human Rights Landscape” offers the most comprehensive guide to successful business practices that increase corporate efficiency while benefiting the communities around them.
“The Business and Human Rights Landscape” is published by the Cambridge University Press, and is edited by Jena Martin, a WVU law professor, and Karen Bravo, an Indiana University law professor.
In 2013, the WVU College of Law made history by hosting the first comprehensive conference on business and human rights held at a university in the United States. The conference was organized by Martin.
Based on papers presented at the global gathering of experts and top scholars, “The Business and Human Rights Landscape” provides in-depth explorations of the U.N. Guiding Principles from a theoretical and practical viewpoint.
The book delves into the detailed analysis of current events like the 2013 Bangladesh garment factory collapse in 2013 that killed over 1,100 people, and includes perspectives on historical events like the colonial slave trade.
Martin, who serves as the associate dean for innovation and global development at the College of Law, co-authored a chapter in the book with Michael Addo, a member of the U.N. Working Group on Business and Human Rights.
“The book is important for a few different reasons,” Martin told The West Virginia Record. “It provides an overview on where the business and human rights landscape has been, where it currently is, and a peek into the future of where it’s going to be.”
“The idea,” Martin added, “is to look at some of the chapters and realize that labor issues aren’t something that only happen in Myanmar, but also something that happens in West Virginia.”
One of the other reasons Martin believes the book is important is because it challenges businesses to ask themselves how they can be both good and profitable. “Traditionally, the challenge is that human rights advocates tend to talk in one way, and businesses talk in another way. So what we need is a common language, or common translation to bring the two together,” Martin said.
The chapter Martin co-authored with Addo discusses how the relationship between business and human rights is part of a larger conversation about businesses and the role they play in social society. “So when we talk about issues of ethics and corporate social responsibility, all of that is [part of] the journey businesses have been on to discover how they can be good corporate citizens. And human rights is sort of the latest lens that businesses have been using. It’s sort of a fundamental shift because it allows businesses to find the common language in which they can engage in communities.”
Martin indicated that she found the writing process to be challenging at times, but ultimately very rewarding.
The book launch for “The Business and Human Rights Landscape” was held Nov. 18 in Geneva, Switzerland.