Research projects


Responsible mining – An analytical model on institutional capacities at the local level Period: 2012 –

The project deals with human rights abuses and poverty in mining areas by developing a model to analyse and enhance the limited capacities available at the local level to cope with mining. We study the impacts that companies through corporate social responsibility policies, central governments through decentralisation, and donors through development cooperation have on local capacities. We raise two hypotheses: (1) the capacities of local authorities and communities and (2) the interaction of the three actors are crucial in any systemic effort to improve the situation. The results will be a conceptual account, a methodology and a computerised graphic tool that displays detailed information on local capacities and facilitates synergies.

Reasonable Companies – Reasonableness in Law and Corporate Social Responsibility Period: 2012 –

In 2011 the UN adopted the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Companies are expected to ‘respect human rights’ by employing ‘due diligence’. The treatment of large business groups is underspecified and filled with ambiguities. To remedy this foundational weakness we use the legal concept of ‘reasonableness’ which is similar to ‘due diligence’. We proceed by studying ‘reasonableness’ in three bodies of law: negligence law, international human rights law, and administrative law; applying these insights to due diligence in one area of business activity (‘conflict minerals’); and putting forward key elements of a reasonableness-based corporate social responsibility (CSR) regime. The study will enhance the ability of key actors to review corporate conduct for reasonableness. It explains why and how companies should behave reasonably rather than remain passive when affiliates infringe rights; in a globalised world where business activity is increasingly outsourced, a nuanced understanding of the responsibilities of such companies is crucial.


The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights – Foundations and Implementation (book project)
Period: 2010 – 2011

When the Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed John Ruggie’s Guiding Principles in June 2011, it was the first time that the UN stated authoritatively its expectations in the area of business and human rights. The project was dedicated to this special moment in time: a moment of taking stock of a successfully concluded UN mandate (2005–2011) and of preparing for the massive task of following up with more operational guidance, effective governance mechanisms and sound theoretical treatments. The 12 chapters in the edited book offer an in-depth analysis of Ruggie’s reports with a special emphasis on regulatory and governance issues surrounding corporate responsibility.

The implementation of human rights – the role of responsible businesses practices
Period: 2008-2009

The starting point of this project on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and implementation of human rights was to deliberately keep in the picture both governmental and private entities, both law/public policy and corporate practices, so their interaction can be studied, synergies can be captured, and their effectiveness be enhanced. The project had 2 components: a) Participatory CSR in the extractive industries (in Ghana and Peru); and b) The sphere of influence of multinational companies (in outsourced industries with complex supply chains).

Business and Human Rights: An analysis of the corporate voluntarism – public policy interface
Period: 2005-2008

The project looked at responsible business practices (or CSR) as a way to strengthen the protection of human rights and good governance in the Global South. CSR is not by itself the ultimate solution to shortcomings in the protection of human rights and governance gaps. Therefore it is necessary to understand how CSR relates to the wider governance system, how it can facilitate social change towards sustainable development and good governance, and how it interacts with other social mechanisms (ex. law, markets) that are instrumental in social change. The project had 4 components a) Participatory CSR approaches in the mining industry; b) The legitimacy and scope of corporate responsibilities; c) The sphere of influence of multinational companies – Defining its boundaries in light of CSR practices, and d) A critique of CSR as “beyond compliance”.