The starting point for any conversation and the most important development is that there is now a global standard. The UN “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework and the Guiding Principles set the baseline for conversations about corporate responsibility for human rights. The fact that the UN Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed them underlines the truly global nature of this debate. The work of Professor John Ruggie over the past six years to get us to this point has been incredibly important and there has been a real sea change in the understanding of the human rights impacts businesses can have. (From Interview of Mary Robinson, supra).
I think it is clear that following the local laws of the country in question has never been an adequate response from business leaders to human rights challenges. I also think it is important that corporate lawyers are aware that the responsibility to respect human rights is not simply a ‘do no harm’ principle but that it requires due diligence from the business and a proactive approach. To take it one step further, today we can point to examples of businesses that didn’t think they were going to have human rights problems, such as Yahoo!, Google and Microsoft. There will be others from different sectors tomorrow. The fact is that all companies can potentially have an impact on all human rights.So it is very important that local laws that do not meet international human rights standards are not used as an excuse for behaviour by business which is not in line with their responsibility to respect human rights. (From Interview of Mary Robinson, supra).
I think it is becoming increasingly global. Business forums are today much more likely to be made up of business leaders from China, from India, from Brazil, etc which makes sense as these are the emerging economies. The country in which a company is headquartered is becoming increasingly irrelevant since the Guiding Principles are international standards. So all companies now face potential reputational risks if their practices do not respect human rights.
Additionally, organisations working in this space have an increasingly global focus. For instance it was important that the Institute for Human Rights and Business held many consultations in the global south and in particular that the Dhaka Principles for migration with dignity were created out of consultations in Bangladesh and Mauritius. Also the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre has an increasingly global network of representatives based in countries where this conversation is still relatively new. (From Interview of Mary Robinson, supra).
in terms of making the Guiding Principles practical for them. The local networks of the UN Global Compact can play an important role here, working with businesses to see how they can adhere to the Guiding Principles. " (Ibid.).
In terms of the tipping point, it is very important that we link up the human rights responsibilities of business with environmental sustainability and corporate governance and make the responsibility to respect all human rights part of corporate sustainability as a whole. Lawyers advising corporations are very well positioned as their trusted advisors to make these connections and to rapidly increase the level of awareness amongst the business community. Similarly there is a need to share stories amongst the legal profession of their interactions with clients about this debate. It is on the basis of these shared experiences that we will get closer to having a global legal profession well-versed in the corporate responsibility to respect human rights in practice. (Ibid.).