Businesses’ Responsibility to Respect Human Rights

On this day 71 years ago, the history of human rights reached a milestone – for the first time, fundamental human rights were declared to be universally protected. In honour of the International Human Rights Day, we want to acknowledge the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and emphasise how businesses can address their human rights impact.

The respect for human rights is fundamental for businesses. Businesses are increasingly held responsible for human rights violations in their operations and expected to identify and address human rights violations related to their business. Despite this, most companies are failing in addressing human rights. The 2019 Corporate Human Rights Benchmark’s assessment presented an average score of 24,3% of overall compliance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Guiding Principles provide a global standard for identifying, addressing and working proactively to prevent and mitigate human rights abuses in company operations. Failing to take the right actions may result in legal consequences, financial losses, investor divestment and major reputational damage to the company. On the other hand, working with human rights entails opportunities for businesses to gain market shares, attract employees and increase revenue by being at the forefront of this rapidly expanding field.

However, the truth is that companies operate under complex circumstances with conflicting interests and regulatory systems in their different countries of operations. To establish a solid foundation for addressing human rights, Ethos International recommend businesses to consider the following six key drivers:

  • Build commitment and implement policies and procedures to embed human rights within your business operations.
  • Identify risks and evaluate impact to become aware of the potential and actual human rights impacts of your business operations.
  • Address impacts and act upon findings to mitigate identified risks and prevent future risks.
  • Set targets, track and monitor performance to ensure compliance and progress.
  • Engage with stakeholders and enable remediation to include shareholder’s perspectives and ensure the ability to raise concerns and remediation in the event of adverse human rights impacts.
  • Communicate and report to raise awareness and transparently disclose your findings and progress.

Taking successful action requires broad experience and special expertise in working with human rights and business. At Ethos International, we are experts on the business and human rights nexus. We have extensive experience of integrating human rights into business operation and business development. Our human rights experts can support you through any stage of the process.

Want to know more?

Are you interested in taking the human rights work to the next level in your company? Click on this link to see an overview of the range of services we provide.

Don’t know where to start? Keep your eyes open for our breakfast seminar series on business and human rights, launching in 2020.

Contact us for more information on Ethos International services

Anna Bergström
Anna BergströmEngagement manager & Head of Business & Human Rights
Emelie Winget
Emelie WingetSustainability advisor specialising in Business & Human Rights