Respecting Human Rights

The Issue

Human rights are inherent to all human beings. It is this universality that forms the basis of international law and acts as a common bond across continents and cultures. While states have the responsibility to respect, protect and fulfil human rights, the responsibility to respect human rights is shared by everyone — including companies. Corporate actions can have major impacts on the basic human rights of individuals and communities, from violent displacement of communities to develop mines, through sweatshop conditions in garment factories, to extreme conflict-related abuses in the minerals supply chain of electronics manufacturers. Emerging from years of consultation, the 2011 UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (the Guiding Principles) have been widely accepted as a template for companies to develop policy and due diligence on respect for human rights. The 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples sets out individual and collective rights, including the concept of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of indigenous peoples where development impacts those rights.

ESG Perspective

The value of companies can be impacted in many ways by failure in the responsibility to respect human rights, ranging from permitting delays and loss of social license to conduct local operations, through inability to secure supplier contracts from responsible buyers, to reputational damage to consumer brands from the exposure of abuses in the supply chain. The Guiding Principles offer investors a framework with which to engage companies across all sectors on human rights policy and performance. Often overlooked is the investor's own responsibility to respect: to take steps to ensure that investment decisions support human rights and do not lead to complicity in violations.

Our Response

We engage companies in dialogue on:

  • Extractives: human rights impact assessment and adopting the principle of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of indigenous peoples

  • Consumer: respect for human and labour rights of factory, agricultural and fisheries workers in the global supply chain, and support for worker-led responsibility initiatives

  • IT & telecommunications: balancing online privacy and security concerns, and addressing the challenge of conflict minerals in the supply chain

  • Financials: committing not to invest in the manufacture of cluster munitions

We engage with policy-makers, regulators and standards-setters on integrating the Guiding Principles.

We support and participate in initiatives with investors and other stakeholders to explore how best to operationalize human rights due diligence and FPIC.