Research Project

Essex Business and Human Rights

A photograph of the river Thames and the city of London

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.

Project Outputs

Latest Reports and Briefings

Briefing to ICANN on .Amazon TLD applications

This briefing for the private sector organization that manages internet domain naming system examines how the Amazon corporation's application for certain top level domains ('TLDs') -- like .gov or but ending in .amazon -- could negatively impact on the human rights of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon. It then analyses the Amazon corporation's business and human rights responsibilities before concluding that the company has not yet met the full range of international responsibilities stemming from or associated with its application.

Investigator Obligations in Occupied Territories

All businesses are expected to respect human rights, regardless of their industry, size, ownership structure, or operational context. To realize their responsibility, institutional investors must ensure appropriate policies and undertake careful human rights due diligence. This can be difficult even in the best of circumstances. Situations of armed conflict and occupation are not the best of circumstances. Focusing on the Norwegian Statens Pensjonsfund Utland (“SPU”), this Report examines what institutional investors need to do in order to meet their responsibility to respect human rights when investing in businesses that operate in occupied territories.

Court Submissions

Okpabi and others v Royal Dutch Shell Pic and another UKSC 2018/0068

Rule 15 submissions to the Supreme Court by Concerned Academics and Practitioners regarding Okpabi and others v Royal Dutch Shell Plc and another UKSC 2018/0068.

Fazenda Brazil Verde Amicus
Legal opinion on English Common Law Principles of Tort: Ododo Francis Timi v ENI and Nigerial Agip Oil Company (NAOC)’ (2018)

Referenced in a 2019 report requested by the European Parliament on access to legal remedies.

A legal opinion in the case of Jabir and others v KiK Textilien

United Nations Submisisons

Submission to the UN Open-Ended Working Group on Business and Human Rights: Conflicts between a Treaty on Business and Human Rights and Investment and Trade Agreements.

This memorandum builds on the long-standing work of the Essex Business and Human Rights Project, as well as the experience and research of our Director, Professor Sheldon Leader, and two of our academic members, Dr Tara Van Ho and Dr Anil Yilmaz-Vastardis. It outlines the difficulty of using the business and human rights treaty to address conflicts between investment law and human rights. The submission was authored by two of our LLM students, Lisa Kadel and Luciana Collete, working under the supervision of Dr Tara Van Ho, Professor Sheldon Leader, and Luis Felipe Yanes, one of our PhD candidates.


Improving paths to accountability for human rights abuses in the global supply chains: A legal guide.

The purpose of this guide is to identify paths to accountability for human rights abuses in global supply chains by looking beyond the ‘arm’s length transaction’ between certain contractual parties in a special relationship. It aims to provide advocates with an informative and interpretive tool supporting them to push the boundaries of civil liability, for human rights abuses in global supply chains, grounded in existing legal principles. The underlying rationale behind this exercise is an attempt to overcome the disconnect between the law and the economic and social realities prevailing in global production networks.

A Shaky Foundation? Analysing Afganistan's Draft Mining Law

The December 2013 Global Witness report A Shaky Foundation? Analysing Afganistan's Draft Mining Law draws heavily on analysis carried out by the EHBR.

Corporate liability in a new setting: Shell and the changing legal landscape for the multinational oil industry.

Legal experts at the Essex Business and Human Rights Project (EBHR) have urged investors to rigorously challenge oil companies regarding their environmental standards and impact on communities in oil-rich regions such as the Niger Delta.

Corporate liability in a new setting: Shell and the changing legal landscape for the multinational oil industry is the latest report by researchers in the EBHR. Although it focuses on legal actions taken against Shell, its conclusions could have repercussions for other multinational enterprises. The independent report has been produced with support from Amnesty International UK and Fair Pensions.

Past projects

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.

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Essex Business and Human Rights Essex Law School
Telephone: (+44)1206 872586