The Business Case for Human Rights

In this book chapter of “Business and Human Rights Law” edited by Ilias Bantekas and Michael Ashley Stein, Dorothée Baumann-Pauly and Lilach Trabelsi first discuss the growing expectations for companies to address human rights and the need to develop business models that enable profits and human rights principles to co-exist. They then describe and discuss two empirical cases of companies that are experimenting with new business models to align the expectations for profits with the protection of human rights.

The first case from the sportswear industry shows how Decathlon, a French sports retailer, has revised its purchasing practices to create partnerships with its suppliers with a view to improving both productivity and working conditions.

The second case, from the extractives sector, discusses how Trafigura, a Swiss-based commodity trading company with headquarters in Singapore, has set up a collaborative project with a mining company to formalize the artisanal mining activities of cobalt in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to mitigate human rights risks.

Both cases illustrate actions taken by companies to embed human rights into their core activities while also developing their businesses. These cases provide anecdotal evidence for the hypothesis that systematically integrating respect for human rights can indeed go hand in hand with financial success and be considered ‘good business’.

Authors: Dorothée Baumann-Pauly & Lilach Trabelsi
Date: September 2021
Book: Business and Human Rights Law
Publisher: Cambridge University Press