Human rights 1.0

Speaker: Liesbeth Unger (Human Rights@Work)

Human rights are standards for everybody. They are based on international standards and treaties between states. The UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights describe what is expected from states and businesses regarding human rights:

  • Protect. States: duty to protect
  • Respect. Corporations: responsibility to respect
  • Remedy. Victims: access to effective remedy

The UNGP states that corporations have the responsibility to ‘do no harm’, independent of what the state does. This is a proactive responsibility rather than a reactive one. Three tips to improve your human rights performance:

  1. Start small and prioritise based on impact: take one country, one supply chain and investigate (impact assessment – what happens locally)
  2. Start asking questions (to suppliers, to human resources, to management, to stakeholders) and initiate a joint risk assessment
  3. Start the internal and external conversation about what human rights mean for the company

Additional tools/frameworks: UNGP Reporting Framework, Social Hotspot Database, CSR Risk Check.

foto door Herre Vermeer Fotografie -

When a company faces more than one human rights risks, how should it prioritise action?
“As a company, you need to have resources to deal with all human rights risks; there is no option of prioritising based on your own interests. However, what you can prioritise on is the severity of the impact and the leverage that you have. Sometimes, you see that you could have a great impact, but you simply don’t have the leverage to achieve this. It is then key to find other stakeholders and address the issues together.”

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