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263.2 sec. 1 - Business, Social Responsibility, and Human Rights (Fall 2014)

Instructor: Jamie O'Connell  (view instructor's teaching evaluations | profile)
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Units: 3
Meeting Time: TuTh 11:20-12:35
Meeting Location: 115

Course Start: August 26, 2014
Class Number (formerly Course Control Number) (Non-1Ls): 49772

Large corporations now routinely spend millions of dollars to protect human rights and the environment. Shell Nigeria builds hospitals and schools in the Niger Delta. Nike employs hundreds of inspectors to improve conditions for the factory workers who produce its shoes across Asia and Latin America. Since the Snowden revelations, Google has scrambled to shield users’ data from the National Security Agency. Other examples abound, across industries and around the globe.

“Don’t be evil” (Google’s slogan) may be one motivation for these companies, but something more mundane is also at work: many companies believe they will do *well*, financially, if they do *good*, ethically. This course examines questions that lawyers in large law firms, corporations, NGOs, and government agencies regularly confront:
--What does it mean for a company to “do good”? Should it care?
--When does it serve a company’s interest to take costly action to address human rights, labor, and environmental concerns?
--What tactics have activists used to shift public opinion, media frames, and the law and thereby change companies’ incentives?

Students will learn skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the expanding field of corporate social responsibility and human rights. Companies want to minimize the risk that a human rights scandal will damage their relationships with consumers. Advocacy groups want to stop corporate behavior they see as harmful. Serving these clients requires business and political acumen, as well as traditional legal skills - and the ability to combine all of those to produce insightful, practical analyses and recommendations.

We will learn through seminar-style discussion, lectures, role play, and small group exercises. Several guest speakers from companies and nonprofits will provide insights from their experiences on the ground.

The Writing Requirement may be satisfied by writing (and revising) a paper in place of the final exam.

Exam Notes: TH/P
Course Category: International and Comparative Law
This course is cross-listed in the following categories:
Business Law
Social Justice and Public Interest

The following file is available for this course:


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A reader will be used in this class.

Required Books are in blue

  • King Leopold's ghost
    Adam Hochschild
    Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
    ISBN: 9780618001903
    Copyright Date: To Be Determined
    Price: $2.34
    Note: prices are sampled from internet bookstores. Folletts prices are unavailable at this time.

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