Shaping an Emerging Global Agenda


Professor Park, Colleagues Awarded UConn Academic-Plan Grant to Help Further the Study, Practice of Human Rights in Business

Business law professor Stephen Park and UConn colleagues have been awarded a $265,000 research grant under UConn’s Academic Plan to investigate ways to protect and promote human rights in the business world.

The Business and Human Rights Initiative, which will be funded from the research grant, seeks to establish UConn as a global leader in this emerging business field through conferences and workshops, support for UConn researchers, and public engagement.

The Business and Human Rights Initiative builds on successful ongoing collaboration between the School of Business, the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center and the Human Rights Institute. Since 2013, UConn has hosted several conferences that drew both academic experts to exchange ideas, as well as public forums where business leaders, human rights advocates and policymakers discussed current issues.

“Our scope covers everything from labor rights and practices, to environmental sustainability and climate change, to corporate compliance and how companies develop their human rights policies,” Park said. “We are happy and excited to move forward.”

Park is spearheading the Business and Human Rights Initiative with Glenn Mitoma, professor of education and human rights and director of the Dodd Center; Molly Land, professor of law and human rights and associate director of the Human Rights Institute; Kathy Libal, professor of social work and director of the Human Rights Institute; Shareen Hertel, professor of political science and human rights, and Caroline Kaeb, professor of business law and human rights. In addition, Michelle Cote, managing director of the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, is part of the team.

“We know that the responsibility and impact of human rights is a big concern in international business today—a growing concern among businesses and their stakeholders, be they employees, investors or local communities,” Park said.

UConn Advances 15 Initiatives

This project is one of 15 new initiatives that UConn has selected to enhance education and research. Its $3 million investment covers a wide range of projects, including the creation of an Institute of Biological Risk; research and scholarship on autism; efforts to treat pain in sickle cell patients and establishing a master’s degree program in genetics, genomics and counseling. The three-year grants extend through June 2019.

The Business and Human Rights Initiative will support research by UConn faculty, including Kaeb and Park, on a variety of pressing questions in business and human rights. These projects cover the development of tools to assess how firms perform and report on social and environmental indicators, the engagement of businesses with stakeholders in their global supply chains, and the incorporation of human rights mandates in internal corporate governance.

The team is planning conferences and workshops featuring a diverse array of scholars from UConn and globally. In addition, they hope to actively participate in the U.S. State Department’s project to create a national, human rights-action plan on responsible business conduct guidelines for American companies around the world. From roundtable discussions, the organizers intend to prepare a white paper that offers recommendations for these challenging issues, and develop a training program for businesses that want to enact responsible human rights policies within their companies.

For UConn students, of all majors, there will be opportunities not only to attend and learn from these events but also to engage with business leaders, policymakers and advocates. Park said the team is keenly interested in assisting students interested in a career in the business and human rights field.

“Students increasingly care about these issues. They want to work for companies that care about human rights and put them into practice,” he continued. Although global in scope, these issues also hit home in Connecticut.

“We’re seeking to leverage the School of Business’ commitment to ethical and socially responsible business and UConn’s preeminent role in multi-disciplinary approaches to human rights to play an integral role in an emerging global dialogue about harmonizing and optimizing the relationship between business and human rights,” Park said.