Research Group

Essex Business and Human Rights

About Essex Business and Human Rights

The demands of human rights impact on businesses at a steadily increasing pace. This opens a complex and fast changing field of concerns, posing challenges to law and to the social and natural sciences.

We encourage dialogue across these disciplines and among actors from a broad range of backgrounds. Our aim is to foster research and to bring the results of that research to bear on practical problems, working on national and international issues and collaborating with partners across the world.

Essex Business and Human Rights will assist with the formulation of research ideas and links with possible funding sources. Projects envisaged include those via partnerships with other universities, NGO's, inter-governmental organizations, etc. Essex Business and Human Rights will offer training, consultancy, assistance with litigation, policy analysis, resources for teaching and student involvement.

Our strengths
  • Pro-active, multi-disciplinary research incorporating a range of legal specialisms
  • Part of a global community of researchers and professionals across NGO's corporations and universities
  • We aim to operationalise the concrete context and find a balance between human rights impact and commercial concerns


Projects previously undertaken by our members covered a wide range of areas, from balancing national and local human rights concerns in development projects, corporate complicity in human rights abuses, regional human rights law and multinational corporate accountability, commercial arbitration and human rights, extraterritorial treaty obligations and their impact on companies, project finance, development and human rights, unconscionable debt and resistance, social movements and human rights pressure groups and their impacts on business and management.


The project will offer short courses to lawyers, NGO's, businesses, and governments on particular areas that call for dealing with areas requiring a specialist focus.


Members of the project have experience in the analysis of legal frameworks for investment projects; in the structure of corporate governance; in suitable accounting methods; and other areas of potential use for non-academic users including NGOs, labour organizations, businesses, governments, and inter-governmental organizations.

Policy analysis

The project is particularly interested in proactive approaches to human rights and environmental problems raised by business. To that end members have been involved in formulation of policies that can lead to improved codes of practice; to amended legislation or regulation, improved contracts; and other alterations designed to prevent problems arising.

Resources for teaching

The human rights and environmental impacts of business forms an increasingly popular topic for courses across a wide spectrum of disciplines. The project provides a resource centre for potentially relevant material of use in courses.

Student involvement

Students are invited to become involved in several project activities. This includes research assistance; preparation of background materials and arguments for litigation; work on particular issues of policy leading to position papers.

Essex academic programme

We also provide staff and students with a forum for discussion of project related issues through our Essex Business and Human Rights seminar series as well as opportunities to participate in background research for consultancy on a broad range of topics.

Powerful Purchasers

This project aimed to identify the specific legal principles that highlight the special position of the purchaser able to influence the behaviour of suppliers.


EBHR has written a report on the potential liabilities of the parent company in the Shell Group, as well as that of its Nigerian subsidiary, for oil spills in the Niger Delta.

The report places emphasis on changes in Nigerian legal standards, as well as developments in the UK concerning parent company liability, both of which increase the prospects for successful litigation in jurisdictions outside Nigeria as well as domestically.

One of the report’s objectives is to provide Shell investors with the necessary information as well as samples of detailed questions that they could direct to their company in order to acquire more information on the Niger Delta situation. The Niger Delta Report was successfully published on 10 December 2012.

Australia - UK

Non-judicial remedies for human rights abuses by business

EBHR is part of a three-year research project analysing non-judicial dispute settlement mechanisms for human rights abuses by businesses, particularly those operating outside of their home countries.

The Project is being conducted in partnership with Melbourne and Monash Universities in Australia, the University of Newcastle, the UK’s Corporate Responsibility Coalition (CORE) and several leading NGOs including Oxfam Australia, ActionAid and the Federation of Homeworkers Worldwide. EBHR’s contribution will be integral to formulating a recommendation for a UK Commission on Business and Human Rights.

The team has constructed a database of the various forms of non-judicial redress mechanisms, as well as the regulatory mapping of UK business and human rights-related legislation, parliamentary and government bodies to serve as a basis for institutional design and operation.

EBHR is currently conducting background research into the impact of non-judicial remedies with a view to producing an academic research paper.


In collaboration with the Rio de Janeiro Prosecutor’s Office and the Federal University of Juiz de Fora, EBHR is provided the Prosecutor’s Office with legal analysis regarding the potential liabilities that certain foreign domiciled companies would incur as a result of the latter’s activities in the construction and operation of projects which have an impact on the local populations and environment in the Rio de Janeiro area.

In this collaboration, EBHR was also involved in providing training to the Prosecutor’s Office and to the University Juiz de Fora in the field of business and human rights.


As an increasing number of mining companies are currently prospecting or doing business in Senegal, Amnesty International Netherlands has commissioned EBHR to produce a report on whether the internal legal framework is adequate to ensure human rights, social and environmental protection in light of international standards, in particular the ECOWAS Mining Directive.

The legal analysis considers a number of aspects including land rights, health and safety, right to water, environmental issues, gender, as well as the judicial and non-judicial remedies available to local communities affected by notably industrial mining activities. The initial desk-based research was followed by fieldwork investigation in Senegal.


EBHR was asked by Global Witness, UK to assess the qualities of the proposed Minerals Law of Afghanistan, drafted by the Ministry of Mines but rejected by Cabinet in July 2012.

The analysis, after critically reviewing the rejected draft, is focused on improved techniques for transparency, human rights protection and effective remedy that new legislation could embody.

The overall aim of the project is helping the government of Afghanistan draft a new bill that takes in due consideration, alongside mining companies’ and State’s interests, of the human and environmental rights of local populations.

The Global Witness report A Shaky Foundation? analysing Afghanistan's Draft Mining Law, which draws heavily on EHBR analysis was published in December 2013.

Get in touch
Get in touch
Essex Business and Human Rights School of Law
Telephone: (+44)1206 872586