Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
International Business, Environment & Human Rights
Academic Year
Distance Learning

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Module Assessment  Written Assignment of 5,000 words  100%

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to:

1. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge and understanding of the underlying rationale for the evolving obligations of multinational corporations to protect human rights in this area.

2. Display a detailed understanding of the environmental and human rights impacts of international businesses in their host countries and the differing nature of these across various jurisdictions.

3. Display a detailed understanding of the factors within host countries, especially in the economically less developed countries, which militate against effecting regulation and enforcement of environmental and human rights abuses against these companies.

4. Critically analyse and evaluate the legal responses at the international and transnational levels aimed at protecting host communities from environmental human rights abuses by multinational companies.

5. Access the relevant literature and materials in this field and use them to engage in a critical discussion of the subject.

Brief description

The module will enable students to understand the environmental and human rights implications of the operations of international businesses in host countries and the consequent legal responses, especially the evolving personality of multinational companies as subjects of international law and the broadening of the scope of their obligations. The module responds to the need for students to develop a critical appreciation of the effectiveness or otherwise of the various responses at the international, transnational and national levels, especially in the context of implementation of various concepts and norms in international instruments at the national level and their enforcement by both economically developed and developing countries. It is an area of study with contemporary significance and an increasing amount of legal activity that is of practical relevance to potential students already working in certain areas (for instance, government departments, multinational companies, and non-governmental organizations) and for whom the format of distance learning is for various reasons a preferred option.

The module will begin with a critical appraisal of the nature of the personality of multinational corporations and the scope of their rights and obligations from both a historical and more modern perspective. Thereafter, with the use of case studies, students will be introduced to some of the impacts that business activities can have on the environment, and the challenges to some national regimes in effectively redressing these. This will be followed by an appraisal of the international law instruments/mechanisms that have developed to address some of these abuses and their implementation and enforcement. To the extent that there are still lapses, attention will be paid to transnational regimes such as the US Alien Tort Claims Act (US ATCA) which has been the basis of action for environmental and human right abuses against various US companies operating in foreign jurisdictions.


1. The nature and legal personality of multinational corporations - historical and emerging trends.

2. The human rights implications of the environmental impact of international businesses in host countries - selected case studies.

3. Challenges faced by national legal regimes of host states in addressing the environmental impacts and human rights implications of the activities of multinational corporations.

4. International instruments (hard and soft law) regulating the environmental and human rights implications of international businesses.

5. Transnational regulation of multinational corporations by home states.


This module is at CQFW Level 7