Business and Human Rights

In a globalized world the corporations’ responsibilities do not end at their factory gates. But how can corporate accountability be ensured?

The number of initiatives and standards which serve that purpose is still growing , from corporate codes of conduct and certification schemes to guidelines of international organisations. The most authoritative and internationally recognised framework for business and human rights are the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).

The UNGPs clarify that businesses have the responsibility to address the impacts on human rights that occur through their own activities or as a result of their business relationships with other parties, along their supply chains. The UNGPs are built on three pillars that outline the duties and responsibilities for states and businesses to address business-related human rights abuses.

  1. The state duty to protect human rights
    against abuses by third parties, including business enterprises, through appropriate policies, regulation and adjudication.
  2. The corporate responsibility to respect human rights
    This means that business enterprises must act with due diligence (see below) to avoid infringing on the rights of others and to address adverse impacts with which they are involved.
  3. The need for access to effective remedy by victims
    This is meant both judicial and non-judicial. States and corporations are both responsible for facilitating this.

What is Human rights due diligence?

Due diligence is a way for business to address human rights violation. For that purpose the enterprises identify the risks of human rights infringements to prevent them and mitigate when human rights are negatively affected. Furthermore they account for how they deal with potential or actual negative impacts of their activities on human rights. Due diligence implies more than just an assessment of risks for the company.

As an important part of due diligence it implies that companies hold meaningful consultation with affected rights holders and other stakeholders. These might be affected workers, communities, vulnerable groups or individuals. Companies must take their interests into account and ensure that their rights are respected.

Communication is another important element of due diligence. Companies have to provide a measure of transparency and accountability to all those who may be affected by their activities, as well as to other relevant stakeholders, including investors. Public reporting plays a critical role in advancing implementation of the UNGPs. The UNGPs Reporting Framework was introduced for companies to report on how they respect human rights in practice.

Implementation must be improved!

Governments are expected to develop National Action Plans. However, there is still much to do. The implementation of human rights due diligence is one of the key demands of SUPPLY CHA!NGE. Therefore our consortium follows up on different European and international policy processes, such as: