Gobal civil society elements is gearing up for the upcoming 2013 United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights, of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises. In that connection it might be important to the attendees to consider the extent of the work that lies before any network of international public and private organizations seeking to embed human rights structures within enterprise cultures. In particular, the divergence between corporate social responsibility, increasingly driven by risk management techniques and sensibilities, and human rights in business activity, driven primarily by law and norm structures, may become an important element of business practices in the coming years. While the UN Guiding Principles suggest the value of risk management as a part of human rights due diligence, it is not clear that CSR and business human rights elements will be speaking the same language for very long.
This was brought home in a recent study of Thomas Singer and Matteo Tonello for the Conference Board, which is entitled, Sustainability Practices: 2013 Edition. (see video).
One of the more interesting issues they suggest is the divergence between corporate advances in developing and promoting corporate social responsibility programs generally, and the development of corporate human rights programs. This is important in elaborating the current global project of corporate embedding of human rights norms into their core operational cultures, risk management and remediation policies. Indeed, the project of human rights due diligence at the heart of the U.N. Guiding Principles of Business and Human Rights requires a privileging of human rights norms within the cluster of corporate practices subsumed generally under CSR principles. See for example Olivier De Schutter, Anita Ramasastry, Mark B. Taylor, Robert C. Thompson, Human Rights Due Diligence: The Role of the States (December 2012) (in conjunction with the United Nations Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights, the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR), the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ) and the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA) (explaining that Human Rights Due Diligence Project sought to establish the extent to which the legal systems of States already make use of due diligence regulations to ensure that businesses respect established standards and to describe a range of regulatory options policymakers might use to take the next steps in ensuring businesses respect human rights).
The International Finance Corporation's Guide to Human Rights Impact Assessment and Management, Determining a Company’s Human Rights Due Diligence Approach (World Bank Group).
Determining a company’s human rights due diligence approach is an important first step towards scoping an appropriate and relevant human rights impact assessment that will complement, and add to, the existing company policies, procedures and practices.
A well-structured company human rights due diligence approach will identify:
--How the company affects (positively or negatively) the human rights of their affected stakeholdersTwo interactive tools have been developed to help companies determine their company human rights due diligence approach.
--The potential and/or actual human rights risks that can affect the company’s business operation
--The processes the company has in place to address the potential and/or actual human rights risks and impacts
--The Human Rights Identification tool aims to help companies become aware of a range of potential and/ or existing human rights risks and impactsUsers that are unsure what constitutes a ‘human right’ should revisit the graphic: Human Rights - an umbrella term, which highlights all of the international human rights.
--The Human Rights Due Diligence Mapping tool aims to help companies map the policies, risks and impact assessment processes and management systems that address potential and/or existing human rights risks and impacts
To provide relevant context, both tools are framed within carefully constructed, fictitious Human Rights Scenarios that present a range of human rights allegations against a fictional company. The scenarios aim to sensitize users to a range of intersecting social and economic situations that have potential repercussions on the human rights of the company’s stakeholders.
Together, the Human Rights Scenarios, and the two interactive tools will help the user:
--Identify potential human rights risks and impacts associated with its business activityMapping the company’s human rights due diligence approach at an early stage should prevent the company from developing ad hoc, individual responses to a particular human rights challenge in the future. (International Finance Corporation, Guide to Human Rights Impact Assessment and Management, Determining a Company’s Human Rights Due Diligence Approach (World Bank Group))
--Explore how the company is equipped to respond, if faced with a range of challenging human rights risks and impacts in its business activity
--Scope an appropriate human rights impact assessment that adds to, and complements, the existing company human rights due diligence approach
Singer and Tonello explain: "An analysis of disclosure by S&P Global 1200 companies shows that fewer than half reported having a human rights policy, compared to 22 percent of S&P 500 companies. By geography, European companies were far more likely to report having a human rights policy than their peers: 63 percent of companies in Europe reported having such policy, compared to less than one-quarter of companies in North America."
Here is the chart they have posted: