The study explores the views of businesses worldwide on their responsibility to respect human rights and the ways in which these obligations are carried out. It is based on a global online survey and in-depth interviews with experts and senior executives.
It draws on two main sources for its research and findings: a global online survey of 853 senior corporate executives carried out in November and December 2014 and 9 in-depth interviews with independent experts (including specialists from Harvard, Human Rights Watch, Institute of Human Rights) and senior executives of major companies (including Coca-Cola, UBS, Anglo American).
Human Rights are now a matter for businesses
- 83% agree that Human Rights are a matter for business
- 44% say that the CEO is most likely to take the leading role in Human Rights (followed by CSR – 34% and Human resources - 24%)
- Top 3 drivers are: sustainable relationship with local communities, brand reputation and employees’ expectations
- Close to a third think that make reporting on human rights a mandatory requirement for companies would help them respect human rights
- Ed Potter, director of workplace rights, Coca Cola: “In 2014 we adopted a consolidated human rights policy. It took 8 months in 2005 to align with the bottlers. It took 15 minutes last year.”
But concrete actions are lagging
- Surprisingly 17% agree that Human Rights are NOT a matter for business
- Only 21% say that a clear business case is driving their Human Rights policy
- A majority has no explicit policy statement that references Human Rights
- Top 3 barriers are: lack of understanding, lack of resources and lack of training and education
- 79% do not see a clear business case for committing on human rights (risk-benefit analysis, competitive advantage…)
- Jan Klawitter, government relations manager, Anglo American: “We have to acknowledge big corporations need time to change. It is not an excuse for doing nothing: it is just a reality.”
The journey continues
The intersection of business and human rights has seen significant activity in the last decade. Executives have largely accepted that companies have a role in this field. It’s time now to turn thoughts into action.
As John Ruggie, former UN secretary general’s special representative on business and human rights, says “Now that we have a common foundation of minimum standards and processes, the UN Guiding Principles need to be developed in a more granular way.”
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