BUSINESS & HUMAN RIGHTS

“We promote responsible business behaviour”

 
 
 

The world is changing rapidly, creating new opportunities but also challenges for companies. Globalization, increased transparency of supply chains, digitalization, changing consumer and investor expectations, war for talents and other developments are impacting future business success. 

In 2011, the United Nations adopted the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) to guide companies in this changing landscape. They have since become the internationally recognized framework providing a blueprint for concrete steps businesses should take to respect human rights (human rights due diligence). Many recent national action plans (NAPs) on business and human rights, regulatory developments such as the UK Modern Slavery Act, international standards and initiatives (e.g. OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and UN Global Compact) are now referring to the UNGPs.

Managing potential and actual human rights impacts not only reduces financial, operational or reputational risks for a company, but also creates new opportunities: responsible businesses strengthen partnerships within their supply chain and forge new connections, they attract talents and investors and foster innovation. All these factors contribute to generating a higher and more sustainable added value.

 

Examples of human rights issues businesses are faced with today:

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Working Conditions

Issues that may come up for companies:

Unpaid overtime; Unsafe working conditions; Lack of protective equipment and training for employees handling chemicals; Harassment of employees due to their ethnicity; Punitive terminations of employment for participating in strike actions; Workers aren’t allowed to take their weekly rest day.

Related human rights:

The right to health; The right to freedom from discrimination; The right to peaceful assembly; The right to enjoy just and favourable conditions of work.

 
 
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Modern Slavery

Issues that may come up for companies:

Women forced into prostitution; Forced labour in agriculture, domestic work and factories; Child labour in sweatshops; Entire families forced to work for nothing to pay off generational debts; Employers confiscating passports of migrant workers; Wage withholding from migrant workers to pay back recruitment fees.

Related human rights:

The right not to be subjected to slavery, servitude or forced labour; The right to freedom of movement.

 

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Child Rights

Issues that may come up for companies:

Aggressive marketing that exploits children’s vulnerability; Children left home alone because of parents working overtime; Hazardous working conditions for young adults; Child labour that prevents children from attending school; Producing products that are unsafe for children to use.

Related human rights:

The rights of protection for the child; The right to education.

 

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Right to privacy

Issues that may come up for companies:

Failure to protect the confidentiality of personal data held about employees or customers; Pregnancy testing as part of job applications; Information about individuals provided to state authorities following illegal requests; Sale of equipment or technology that can be used to track individuals’ communication and movements to a state with a poor human rights record.

Related human rights:

The right to privacy.

 

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Impact on health

Issues that may come up for companies:

Pollution from business operations having negative impacts on the health of workers and/or surrounding communities: The sale of products that are hazardous to the health of customers; Failure to implement appropriate health and safety standards leading to long-term negative impacts on worker’s health.

Related human rights:

The right to health.

 

 
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Contentious land acquisitions

Issues that may come up for companies:

A company in the supply chain is associated with the forcible eviction of people from their homes or land and with other related violations; Contested land use by companies in the value chain creating large footprints on the land and the surrounding communities.

Related human rights:

The right to adequate housing; The right to freedom of movement.

 

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Adequate standard of living

Issues that may come up for companies:

Poor-quality housing or dormitories provided to workers; Failure to pay a wage allowing for a decent living; Failing to provide adequate sanitation facilities for workers; Business activities pollute or threaten existing water resources in a way that significantly interferes with local communities’ ability to access clean drinking water.

Related human rights:

The right to an adequate standard of living.