Global Compact Principle 1: Support and Respect
"Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights."
Why Human Rights Are Important for Business
Governments have the primary responsibility to protect human rights. However, individuals and organizations also have important roles to play in supporting and respecting human rights. The business community has a responsibility to respect human rights, that is, not to infringe human rights, in the context of their own activities and their business relationships. Operating context, company activities and relationships can pose risks that the company might negatively impact human rights, but they also present opportunities to support or promote the enjoyment of human rights while also advancing one’s business.
Promoting the rule of law
Societies in which human rights are respected are more stable and provide a better environment for business. Businesses whether operating outside their country of origin or at home may have the opportunity to promote and help raise standards in countries where protection of human rights issues is insufficient, especially in ways that are strategically relevant to its core business.
Addressing consumer concerns
Access to global information means that consumers are increasingly aware of where their goods come from and the conditions under which they are made.
Value chain management
Global sourcing and distribution means that companies need to be aware of potential human rights issues both upstream and downstream.
Increasing worker productivity and retention
Workers who are treated with dignity and given fair and just remuneration for their work are more likely to be productive and remain loyal to an employer. New recruits increasingly consider the social, environmental and governance record of companies when making their choice of employer.
Building good community relationships
Companies that operate on a global basis are visible to a large audience world-wide as a result of advances in communications technologies. Addressing human rights issues positively can bring rewards at site level, within local communities, as well as in the broader global commons in which companies operate.
Respecting Human Rights
Respect for human rights is part of Principle 1 of the United Nations Global Compact. In June 2011, the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were unanimously endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council as an authoritative global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity. The “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework rests on three independent, but inter-related pillars: the State duty to protect human rights (Pillar I), the corporate responsibility to respect human rights (Pillar II) and access to remedy for victims of human rights abuses (Pillar III). Pillar II establishes the ‘Responsibility to Respect’ as the minimum global standard on human rights for all businesses wherever they operate. Download Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations "Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework
Determining the scope of responsibility
Companies should consider three sets of factors in determining the scope of their responsibility to respect human rights or, in other words, the risk of potential negative impacts on human rights in connection with the conduct of their business.
The first is to consider the country and local context in which it is operating for any human rights challenges that context might pose.
The second set of factors involves considering whether the company is causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their own activities within that context — for example, in their capacity as producers, service providers, employers and neighbors ("activities" is understood to include both actions and omissions).
The third set of factors is an analysis of the company’s relationships with Government, business partners, suppliers and other non-State actors to consider whether they might pose a risk for the company in terms of implicating it in human rights abuse.
Companies should adopt a statement of policy as a public commitment to fulfill their responsibility to respect human rights, approved by their board or equivalent. It can be a stand-alone statement or integrated into a broader corporate sustainability policy or code of conduct.
Human Rights Due diligence
In order to ensure and demonstrate (i.e. to know and show) that a company is meeting its responsibility to respect human rights it should undertake due diligence. Human rights due diligence is the ongoing process taken to identify, prevent and mitigate and account for negative human rights impacts which the company may cause or contribute to through its own activities or which may be directly linked to the company’s products, operations or services by a business relationship.
Assessing human rights impacts: Many corporate human rights issues arise because companies do not consider the potential implications of their activities and relationships within their operating context. Companies should take proactive, ongoing steps to understand how existing and proposed activities may cause or contribute to human rights impacts, as well has how the company’s operations may be directly linked to such impacts.
Integration of human rights policies throughout a company: The integration of human rights policies throughout a company may be the biggest challenge in respecting human rights. If awareness of human rights issues and their importance is not fully integrated across relevant internal functions and processes, inconsistent or contradictory actions can result.
Taking action: The appropriate action for a company to take will vary depending on whether (a) the company has caused or contributed to an impact, or (b) it is directly linked to that impact through its business relationships. In the case of (a), the company should cease or prevent the impact. In the case of (b) it should utilize available leverage to prevent or mitigate the impact.
Communicating/reporting on performance: Remediation
A company should have in place or participate in remediation processes.
Supporting Human Rights
In practice, respect and support for human rights are often closely interlinked in terms of the management steps that are taken to enable and ensure respect and support for human rights.
There are at least four ways business can support or promote human rights:
Through their core business activities in support of UN goals and issues
Strategic social investment and philanthropy
Advocacy and public policy engagement
Partnership and collective action.