Business and Human Rights

Promoting coporate responsibiltity to respect human rights

The Business and Human Rights program is established to promote the corporate responsibility to respect human rights. Activities are mainly directed towards corporations, business schools and human rights defenders.

Photo: Ingvild Festervoll Melien/Rafto Foundation

Business impact people everywhere in a variety of ways. These impacts are often positive, and we need corporations to help fulfil human rights. Still, adverse human rights impacts are widespread, and they must be dealt with more systematically and effectively. The corporate responsibility to respect human rights is defined in an authoritative and globally accepted way by the UN, as stated in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. These principles were unanimously endorsed by the UNHRC in 2011 and are now a common denominator of the UN Global Compact, the OECD Guidelines, the Global Reporting Initiative, ISO 26000 and other global standards.

Implementing the corporate responsibility to respect human rights is crucial in order to achieve social sustainability and enhance human dignity and stable societies. Raising awareness and building capacities both within businesses and human rights organizations, as well as educating future leaders, is necessary.

The Rafto Foundation draws upon experience from long-term support to human rights defenders, extensive work on human rights and democracy education and close relationships with NHH - Norwegian School of Economics, the business community and international experts. The main institutional partner for this program is the Institute for Human Rights and Business. Other key partners are Bergen Chamber of Commerce, the University of Bergen, Norwegian OECD Contact point and Norwegian companies (regionally and nationally).

Main activities within the program:

A regional UNGP platform

A platform for regional cooperation on implementation of the UNGP is being developed, with Rafto leading the work on behalf of NHH, Bergen Chamber of Commerce and the City of Bergen. The main target group is businesses with international supply chains.

Masters Course in Business and Human Rights

An international masters course called Business and Human Rights – implementing the Responsibility to respect - is developed by IHRB and Rafto, in cooperation with the Department of Comparative Politics at the University of Bergen. Lecturers are Rafto Laureates and experts from IHRB, the UN, OECD NCP, SOAS, FAFO, UiB, MFA etc.

The Thorolf Rafto Challenge

The annual Thorolf Rafto Challenge at NHH, focusing on human rights challenges in various sectors. The lecture is held each autumn.

Training to businesses

From 2018, the Rafto Foundation, in cooperation with IHRB, will offer generic and bespoke training to businesses. We are in the process of developing tools and course content, including cases and role-plays. Dilemma-training will be key elements in the training.

International activities - empowering human rights defenders

Internationally, Rafto is involved in BHR-activities in Kampala, Seoul and Geneva. The international activities will be expanded in the years to come with the aim of empowering human rights defenders to address issues of corporate abuse and to engage in stakeholder dialogues on behalf of rights holders.


Picture of Therese Jebsen

Therese Jebsen

The Rafto Foundation, Senior Advisor
Means of contactContact details
Phone: 415 11 390

Responsible for the Business and Human Rights programme including Thorolf Rafto Challenge and Masters course at UiB.