Business models and their implications for human rights

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Report
4 November 2016

"Does business structure influence social impact? Early insights and practical implications for donor agencies"

Author: Oxfam and DCED (Donor Committee for Enterprise Development)

November 2016

Donors are engaging directly with the private sector, as partners in development. This represents a major shift in mode of operation, relative to the more traditional, bilateral model. One particular area of interest is how business form, governance and ownership influence social outcomes, a theme that has not received much attention until now. This Briefing Note explores why form, governance and ownership matter, and reviews the evidence that they can influence outcomes for the poor. It is intended to support donors in enhancing the impact of future programming choices, when engaging with business. It is based on research and practical examples from both developed and developing countries, and is a joint initiative of Oxfam and DCED.

[refers to Unilever, Divine Chocolate, Cafe Direct, Wisconsin Producers and Buyers, Eroski, East Caroline Organics, Go-op, Ikea, Wal-mart]

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Article
4 November 2016

Roundtable on Business Structures that Prioritize Human Rights - Discussion Summary

The roundtable brought together experts working to develop and promote alternative corporate forms from the fields of business and human rights (BHR), corporate governance, impact investing, and social enterprise. (See the end of this Discussion Summary for a list of participants.) It was co-chaired by Joanne Bauer of Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights (which hosted), Erinch Sahan of Oxfam Great Britain and Liz Umlas of the University of Fribourg.   

The purpose of the meeting was to begin a discussion on alternative corporate forms that lend themselves to integrating human rights, including the elimination of extreme inequality, into business practice. With the diversity of perspectives around the table and the fact that few participants had previously interacted with one another, the meeting was largely aimed at “synchronizing watches” around language, root concerns, and change objectives.

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Article
25 August 2015

Making Corporations Responsible: The Parallel Tracks of the B Corp Movement and the Business and Human Rights Movement

Author: Joanne Bauer, Columbia University - Institute for the Study of Human Rights; Elizabeth Umlas, University of Fribourg (Switzerland)

The business and human rights (BHR) movement shares several goals with the Benefit Corporation (B Corp) movement: corporations respecting human rights; maintaining a “wide aperture” so that all impacts of a company on people and communities are addressed; and creating rigorous standards of conduct and means of accountability. This paper argues that nonetheless the movements are traveling along parallel tracks and thus missing an opportunity for mutual learning that can improve their effectiveness. The BHR movement can look to B Corps for concrete examples of viable companies that value human rights intrinsically and not just as a means to higher profits. The B Impact Assessment, the B Corp certification tool, can better ensure that B Corps are in fact respecting human rights by adopting BHR standards. And both movements must give greater consideration to the potential contradiction between unlimited scaling – a key goal of B Corps – and the ability of large corporations to respect human rights.

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