Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Accountability and Human Rights ACCFIN4031

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • School: Adam Smith Business School
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

This course aims to develop students' understanding of the relationship between business and human rights, and the mechanisms by which corporations can be made more responsible and accountable for the human rights impacts they have and the risks they pose.


20 hours of lectures / seminars (10 x 2 hours) and 6 hours tutorials (6 x 1 hour).

Refer to MyCampus for timetable

Requirements of Entry

Normally a grade D3 or above in Financial Accounting 2 or equivalent.

Excluded Courses










Word Length/Duration

1 - 9

Degree examination


2 hours

4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10

Group Assignment


2,500 words


The coursework will be group-based, and will normally involve students working in groups of four, students to collectively produce and submit a report of approximately 2,500 words, comprising a critical analysis of a Human Rights and Business dilemma / issue. In addition to the written submission, each group will be required to make a presentation of its work in progress / findings in seminar. Verbal feed-back will be given on presentations, but the presentations will not be summatively assessed.

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable

Reassessments normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

The aim of this course is to develop students' understanding of the relationship between human rights and business, and in particular the foundation and implications of the responsibility to respect human rights. The course will provide students with an opportunity to critically examine competing theories of human rights and the associated responsibilities of business. The potential of human rights law, discourse and rhetoric to help make complex business organisations more responsible will be examined. The difficulties of implementing accountability for human rights by business organisations will be critically considered. The human rights challenges presented by globalisation will be considered, as will the role of international governmental and non-governmental institutions in the promotion of business respect for human rights. The course will favour interdisciplinary perspectives rather than narrowly legal conceptions of issues and the implications that an imperative of respect for human rights has for various business functions will be considered.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students should be able to:


1. Explain and evaluate alternative conceptions of human rights, their foundations, meaning, and implications for business.

2. Critically evaluate the relative responsibilities of states and business for the protection and advance of human rights in an era of globalization.

3. Critically discuss the rise in modern times of the discourse of human rights.

4. Explain the potential impacts of business activities on human rights.

5. Outline and critically analyse the challenges associated with the development of effective mechanisms of corporate accountability for human rights.

6. Explain and critically evaluate corporate practices of accountability for human rights.

7. Outline and critically comment on the role that networks of power and knowledge can play in the regulation and promotion of human rights in the economic sphere.

8. Gather and organise relevant materials and apply it appropriately.

9. Communicate effectively.

10. Work effectively within a group work environment.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits