Following Stern’s Lead, University of Geneva Opens Center for Business and Human Rights

The center will collaborate with the University of Sydney to develop human rights benchmarks for the financial service sector and look at sustainable sourcing of cobalt from the Congo.

NYU Stern School of Business and the Switzerland Université de Genéve will work together to launch the Geneva Center for Business and Human Rights, the first Human Rights Center at a business school in Europe. (Photo by Manasa Gudavalli)

The University of Geneva will follow the Stern School of Business’ lead and launch a Center for Human Rights — the first institution of its kind in Europe — on Nov. 25.

The center will provide companies with the resources to create a business model that allows profits and principles to coexist. In an interview with CNN Money Switzerland, Director Dorothée Baumann-Pauly, who has served as the research director of Stern’s Center for Business and Human Rights since 2013, discussed the importance of its existence, specifically in Geneva.

“To change business education so that human rights become an integral part of business education, we need many allies,” Baumann-Pauly said. “We very early on set our eyes on Geneva, which is arguably the capital of human rights, and it’s a logical place for an academic platform that could advance human rights and business education.”

In a globalized economy, the regulation of business practices becomes more difficult — companies can cross country lines and use different laws in different countries to their advantage. The two universities’ centers focus on pushing companies to consider their impact on people and the world. They push for industry-wide standards related to socially responsible and sustainable methods of doing business.

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Stern Professor of Ethics and Finance Michael Posner has served as Director of Stern’s Center for Business and Human Rights since its founding in 2013. Stern’s is the first human rights center at a business school in the world, and not only offers classes but carries out research and projects relating to human rights challenges facing corporations today.

“For example, next Monday we’ll co-organize a meeting of about 30 business schools around the world who have an interest in human rights,” Posner said of the collaboration between Stern and the Geneva center. “This will be the third year we have that meeting. This is one good example of how the two schools will continue to work together in generating more interest in [human rights in] business schools.”

 

Funding for the University of Geneva center will come directly from the university. According to Baumann-Pauly, the center already has projects lined up, including a collaboration with the University of Sydney to develop human rights benchmarks for the financial service sector, and looking at sustainable sourcing of cobalt from the Congo.

 

The only current connections between the two centers are through staff already involved in Stern’s center.

“It will evolve over time, but right now we’re in the early stages, kind of working out some practical things we can and should do together,” Posner said.

Stern first-year Seth Fandino said Stern emphasizes ideals upheld by its human rights center in other aspects of the program. 

“They push that even in our orientation group,” Fandino said. “I feel like for the past two months all we’ve been talking about is like ethics in business, diversity in business and human rights in business. It’s a good thing because it adds a different aspect to business. It’s not just about making money.”

Stern first-year Ofori Ohene said he appreciates Stern making an effort to incorporate human rights into the school’s work.

“I definitely think it’s a step in the right direction because I believe that is important for the future business leaders of the world to have a better understanding of basic human rights and also how they should be respected in the business environment.”

Fandino said he hopes it results in change, because the current state of corporate values leaves much to be desired.

“The business world sucks, especially when you start talking to people who have been interning at big corporations,” Fandino said. “They still talk about how they’re the only woman in the room, or the only brown kid in the room, and then everyone else is just sort of old white guys. And, that’s obviously a bad thing, and the fact that most businesses run like that is kinda wack.”

Email Rocio Fabbro at [email protected] 

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