Tilburg University: Fair & Green

Tilburg University is committed to a sustainable society and encourages researchers, teachers, support staff, students, and stakeholders to actively contribute to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Human Rights

Fair & Green: human rights

Photo: Daily life in Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, 2014. Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank. Bron: Flickr Creative Commons

CSR and human rights

Many people will remember the gripping images, made by photographer Taslima Akhter, of the collapsed garment factory in Bangladesh in 2013. These images have come to symbolize the impact of bad working conditions resulting from the demand for cheap clothing. In December 2013, the Dutch government adopted the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights.

Formulated in consultation with representatives of the business community, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders, this Action Plan reflects the social trend of increasing interest in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). However, the sense of urgency about CSR is not very strong among the universities. Tilburg University wants to change this and has taken the initiative to develop a human rights policy.

Ambition: Human rights policy for Tilburg University

A number of targets have been formulated as part of the Tilburg University Corporate Social Responsibility program.

  • Explore whether and how human rights are respected in other institutions and collaborations;
  • Create awareness of human rights among staff involved in national and international cooperation;
  • Be clear about the behavior that is expected if there is a dilemma.

The Human Rights project group uses the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, also known as the ‘Ruggie Principles’. This international framework helps us to share knowledge and experience with universities abroad and with such other partners as suppliers.

Human Rights Award

On December 9, 2014, the annual Human Rights Award was presented. Koen Becking, the President of the Executive Board, spoke about Tilburg University’s human rights policy on this occasion.

Creating awareness and commitment: The CSR Lab

Other activities consist of dialogues with staff and students on questions like ‘’What is our role as a university?”, “What do we as a university want to achieve?” and “Would we like to formulate a code of conduct?” but also very practical matters like “What can we do to start with?”

In 2015, these dialogues will take place in so-called CSR Labs. Dates will be published as soon as they become available.

Outreaching Honors Program

Tilburg University students who take Outreaching Honors Program have been invited to contribute to the assignments of the CSR program for Human Rights.

Clarity on expected behavior

The Human Rights project group is contemplating developing a code of conduct that defines human rights standards for the university. The university has been inspired by universities abroad that have already taken action in this direction.

What has Tilburg University done so far?

Tilburg University took into account the human rights aspect of its tendering procedure for the procurement of occupational clothing. We also ask various suppliers (green space maintenance, catering) to contribute to ‘Social Return’ by hiring people with a distance to the labor market. Initiatives by our researchers in the field of human rights include ‘Professors for Development’, research into sexual violence in conflict zones and legislation in Senegal for stateless people.

Human Rights in the CSR program

CSR steering group member: Nicola Jägers

Professor Nicola Jägers teaches Human Rights Law for the Tilburg University Master’s program of International and European Law, among other courses. On December 19, 2014, she delivered her inaugural address, entitled Treaty on Business and Human Rights not the ultimate solution. Nicola Jägers is also a member of the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights. In drafting the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, the Dutch government also consulted this Institute. After publication of the Action Plan, the Institute wrote a comment on this document.

CSR project manager: Willeke Lucius

Willeke Lucius works at Tilburg University’s International Office. Given her position, she is very well informed regarding international cooperation with other universities.