Human rights considerations of certified B Corporations

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Two new articles co-authored by ISHR's Joanne Bauer
Tuesday, October 17, 2017

In September, ISHR's Business and Human Rights Program director Joanne Bauer and Liz Umlas, Senior Fellow of the Croatan Institute, published two articles looking at the human rights considerations of certified B Corporations and benefit corporations, a relatively new form of social enterprise. In the first article, “Do Benefit Corporations Respect Human Rights?,” featured on the cover of Stanford Social Innovation Review, Bauer and Umlas examine the assessment tool of certified B Corporations – the B Impact Assessment (BIA) – and evaluate the extent to which it includes companies’ respect for human rights. They conclude that, despite several promising human rights-related elements, the BIA comes up short, though the B Corp and benefit corporation forms themselves could provide a path to respecting human rights intrinsically if some of their limitations could be addressed.

In the second article, “Making Corporations Responsible: The Parallel Tracks of the B Corp and BHR Movements,” in Business and Society Review, the authors argue that the business and human rights (BHR) movement and the B Corp movement have important things to learn from other: for BHR, the potential to build intrinsic valuation of human rights into the corporate form, and for B Corps, the importance of measuring and addressing companies’ negative impact on human rights, not just B Corps’ “benefit” to society. So far, however, there has been little cross-fertilization between these movements.  The authors’ aim is to stimulate discussion about corporate structure and human rights both within the BHR and B Corp movements and across the movements. 

Joanne Bauer is Senior Researcher, Business and Human Rights Program and Adjunct Professor at the School of International and Public Affairs. She co-leads the Teaching Business and Human Rights Forum based at Columbia and involving more than 260 faculty at 180 institutions in more than 30 countries.  Bauer is editor of Forging Environmentalism: Justice, Livelihood and Contested Environments (ME Sharpe, 2006), and co-editor of The East Asian Challenge for Human Rights (Cambridge University Press, 1999).