Rachel Chambers, Assistant Professor of Business Law at the University of Connecticut, answers some of our questions about using WikiRate to teach students.
Course taught using the WikiRate open data platform: Corporate Social Responsibility and Accountability.
Course level: Undergraduate, seats largely taken up by business majors and human rights majors.
1. How many years have you been using WikiRate as part of your teaching?
This is my third year.
2. How does WikiRate help you teach students about the subject
I incorporate WikiRate into a module on corporate implementation of respect for human rights, in a class that focuses on corporate reporting. Although I ask my students to read corporate human rights reports, I find that giving them the responsibility of evaluating such reports using WikiRate metrics makes them much more thoughtful about what good and bad reporting looks like, and more broadly, the value of such reporting.
3. What inspired you to use WikiRate as part of your course?
I am co-director of an organization called the Teaching Business and Human Rights Forum — a unique platform for collaboration among individuals teaching business and human rights worldwide. Professor Olga Martin-Ortega, Professor of International Law at the School of Law, University of Greenwich (U.K.) presented on WikiRate at our annual workshop in 2019 and I was inspired to use WikiRate as part of my own course.
4. Do the students you teach have any previous experience in sustainability data research and analysis?
Typically, no. They are undergraduates and my class is often the first one they have taken that covers corporate sustainability.
5. What are students most challenged or surprised by when researching companies’ sustainability data?
I think that on one hand they are surprised to learn that there are legal requirements on companies to report on something like modern slavery, but on the other hand as they conduct the research I think they are surprised and disappointed in many instances at the quality of reporting.
6. What do students get out of doing this kind of data research?
Rather than explain this in my own words, I will use a quotation from one of my former students, Abbey Engler:
“The piece of that course that stood out to me as transformative was our project at the end of the year in which we helped a nonprofit organization called WikiRate, who collects data on companies for advocacy organizations to use, to hold companies accountable. We read companies’ modern slavery statements and compared their contents with the legal requirements to evaluate the companies’ compliance with modern slavery laws. Reading through their public statements, extrapolating data, entering it, and making arguments as to why it did or did not meet legal standards felt so natural to me. The realization that my data analysis skills would be used by advocates to truly make a difference was fulfilling.”
7. Do you have an anecdote from one of your WikiRate-based classes that you can share?
Yes, one of my students, Fizza Alam, now a second-year law school student in Chicago, really enjoyed the experience of working on WikiRate. She continues contributing to WikiRate by supporting Walk Free’s modern slavery research through a literature review and developing sector-specific metrics to indicate modern slavery risks within the energy sector.
8. What would you say to an educator interested in using WikiRate for their classes?
Go for it! You and your students will gain firsthand insight into company sustainability reporting in the most impactful way possible — through real-world application of metrics to sustainability reports.
Are you interested in teaching students how to collect and analyze companies’ environmental, social, and governance disclosures in the 21st Century?
Please send us a message, and we’ll share details about WikiRate’s academic partnerships.