Interface Blog

Interview with Ellen Hertz: Business and Human Rights. The limits of good intentions

Lea Helfenstein

On the 29th of november 2020 the swiss population is voting on the Responsible Business Initiative. The Initiative aims at better protecting human rights and the environment by providing a legal framework where multinational corporations are liable for the actions of their subsidiary companies, suppliers and business partners. Ellen Hertz and Yvan Schulz, two anthropologists, recently wrote a book on this topic with the title Entreprises et droits humains. Les limites de la bonne volonté (2020) in french and Unternehmen und Menschenrechte. Die Grenzen des guten Willens (2020) in german. The book provides an overview of the historical development of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)-System currently in place, which involves the voluntary engagement of corporations in protecting human rights and the environment in their supply chains. Furthermore the authors examine the strength of the Initiative to tackle problems of the CSR-System.

To learn more about the book and the contribution of anthropology towards better understanding the political issue at stake I interviewed Ellen Hertz, who is an anthropology professor at the University of Neuchâtel since 2001.

Listen to the interview

Lea Helfenstein is currently studying cultural sciences with major anthropology in her bachelors in Lucerne. She is a member of the SAA Board as the student representative of the german speaking students in Switzerland. Since she is participating in the „Begleitgruppe-Asyl“, a group of people who help refugees with important paperwork and organise meetings to get to know each other, she is interested in topics related to migration and integration. She is also interested in questions concerning the effect economic decisions and mechanisms have on people’s lives. This includes topics like desaster capitalism, philanthrocapitalism or funding of global health.


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