The UN framework for business and human rights: The Danish approach

Louise Rosenmeier

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis sets out to clarify how the UN Framework for business and human rights, endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011, will be embraced by Danish companies. The framework establishes that the protection of human rights is no longer only within the premise of the State but that corporations too have a responsibility to respect these. This imposes a current challenge on companies as they have to systematically assess the actual and potential impacts their business activities will have on human rights. The research was centred on establishing the links between the institutional environment and the current Danish approach to human rights in a business context, which would enable a prediction of the expected corporate approach to the framework. To accomplish this the analysis was composed by an institutional analysis outlining the external influential factors for companies’ human rights efforts, a quantitative analysis of human rights reporting, and a qualitative analysis with four selected companies from the quantitative sample. The discussion throughout the thesis was highly influenced by the notion of explicit and implicit approaches to CSR (Matten & Moon, 2008), which added valuable insight into the currently changing institutional environment, where Danish companies are slowly beginning to claim their responsibilities more explicitly. This works in favour of the UN Framework, as it was discovered that the previous – and in some cases current – approach to human rights has been very implicitly anchored in the companies, and neither something they would explicitly claim nor something they would be able to document. The findings showed that, although a few companies stands out in terms of having a highly structured approach, in line with the proposed human rights due diligence, there exists a common hesitance among the Danish companies towards addressing the UN Framework. This was attributed a general level of uncertainty about its implications and scope, there is thus an urgent need for building and expanding a normative knowledge base. Strengthening this would most likely lead to the recognition that the UN Framework basically requires from companies what they are already claiming to be doing, namely to respect human rights.

EducationsMSc in International Marketing and Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2011
Number of pages145