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Business meets Law
11/09/2022

Business meets Law

Bucerius Law School and WHU start joint, interdisciplinary series of events on sustainable company management

A new joint event series, “Business Meets Law,” held by Bucerius Law School and WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management kicked off on the BLS campus in Hamburg on November 3. “We want to create a platform with this format where experts from the economic and legal fields can meet and have a positive influence on each other. Aside from interdisciplinarity, an exchange between the scientific and the practical is important,” says WHU Assistant Professor Nicole Gottschalck of the concept. “The goal behind this new joint series of events is to take a look at the topics central to sustainable business management from different perspectives—and to discuss potential solutions together.”

Indeed, there are many occasions in the real world where legal and business expertise are equally in demand, as reflected by the topic chosen for the inaugural Business meets Law event: the Act on Corporate Due Diligence Obligations in Supply Chains, scheduled to come into effect at the start of 2023. The matter has been the subject at discussion for executives and in law firms for some time. All participants at the event agreed that the law, alongside well as similar policies in the European Union, is an important step toward securing social standards and human rights, as well as a greater degree of sustainability on both a national and a global level.

Professor Birgit Spießhofer of the University of Bremen and the commercial law firm Dentons Europe LLP reported her experiences and shared the challenges the new law poses for today’s companies: Given that supply chains are transnational, there is great uncertainty as to which soft-law or hard-law standards apply from case to case.” The question then becomes how to make operational the frameworks developed by international organizations. According to Professor Spießhofer, this is a task that could be given to commissioning companies, rating agencies, certification organizations (e.g., the ISO), or export credit agencies. “The governance gaps that exist in developing nations are also problematic. We see that, for example, textile manufacturers in Bangladesh produce according to different corporate governance specifications and hard-law standards every day, depending on the client.” There is also the danger that large, highly automated companies will be better able to comply with such standards, leaving smaller supplies unable to keep up. And that, she mentioned, could cost people their livelihoods.

llse Beneke, Head of the Competence Center for Sustainable Procurement at the Procurement Office of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, came at the subject from a different perspective. She ensures that all relevant sustainability standards are met when awarding public contracts. In Germany alone, there are 30,000 contracting authorities with a combined value of €350B. Beneke made it clear what an important role relevant certificates play when it comes to procurement, i.e., that they give the contracting authorities direction concerning whether the offers in question meet the necessary sustainability and social standards—and that throughout the entire supply chain.

Other interesting insights on the topic came from a panel of top-notch speakers, including Dr. Nora Lohmeyer of Radboud University in Nijmegen (NL), who reported on her research concerning the transition from optional to binding standards. She has come to the conclusion that voluntarism in this case does not produce any discernible results. Professor Magaretha Gansterer of the University of Klagenfurt also presented her research, a piece on optimizing the last-mile delivery process. Dr. Mansur Pour Rafsendjani of Noerr PartGmbB gave insights on the legal basis behind collaborative logistics, as private docent Dr. Franziska Humbert of Oxfam gave insight from the viewpoint of non-profit organizations. Jonas Hein of the Human Rights Department of the Federal Ministry of Justice and Axel Voss, Member of the European Parliament and spokesperson on legal policy for the European People’s Party, brought a unique political perspective to the discussion along with their legal expertise.

“Conferences such as these foster friendly ties between our two private institutions and also allow us all to open our minds,” said Professor Markus Rudolf, Dean of WHU, of the event’s concept before thanking organizers Professor Michael Fehling, Larissa Bahmer, and Professor Matthias Jacobs from BLS, as well as WHU’s own Assistant Professor Nicole Gottschalck and Professor Arne Strauss. Notably, this event is not the first cooperation between the two partner universities. Together with WHU, Bucerius Law School also offers, for example, the Master of Law and Business Program, which prepares young professionals from all over the world for an international career. 

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