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Researcher assesses corporations and human rights

24 May 2021

As the United Nations Guiding Principles for Human Rights (UNGPs) near their 10th anniversary, questions remain as to how helpful they are in ensuring the prevention and remedy of human rights abuses by corporations.

Dr Marisa McVey's doctoral research sought to better understand how human rights are brought into and employed in corporations, through the implementation of the UNGPs.

The United Nations adopted the UNGPs in 2011, creating the first global standard for preventing and addressing human rights abuses by corporations. While these principles have been brought into national legislation and proved popular with corporations, little is known about how they are put into practice in corporate settings.

Dr McVey conducted case studies on an oil and gas company and bank, and looked in a new way at the social practice of corporate accountability for human rights. Her research assessed the usefulness of the UNGPs in helping corporations understand human rights issues and change management practice to take account of human rights issues.

Key findings include:

  • The process of translating UNGPs into a corporate setting can lead to the subordination of human rights.
  • External experts are integral to the implementation and legitimisation of human rights issues in corporate stings.

Dr McVey submitted her thesis in December 2020 and had her virtual viva in April 2021, examined by the School of Management's Professor Lorna Stevenson and Dr Louise Obara of De Montfort University.

She is currently working on further developing insights from her thesis as a postdoctoral research fellow in business and human rights at the School of Management, while also working on a Leverhulme-funded project on digital rights and privacy at Aston Law School.

Marisa McVey holding a copy of her doctoral thesis