Sunday, May 18, 2014

On Moving From Theory to Practice of Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights--Thoughts on the Human Rights Reporting and Assurance Frameworks Initiative (RAFI) Project

I have been considering current efforts to implement the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights  (GPs), a set of principles endorsed by the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2011.  My recent focus has been on issues relating to the operationalization of the state duty to protect human rights (e.g., On the Problem of the State in the State Duty to Protect Human Rights--Fostering National Action Plans as a Means of Refocusing the State Duty on the Business of the State Itself).

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2014)

This post considers the quite thorny issue of the way enterprises might approach their obligations to respect human rights under the GPs. To that end it considers the quite promising framework, the Human Rights Reporting and Assurance Frameworks Initiative (RAFI) Project.  The RAFI project represents an effort to provide guidance to companies that may be committed to better demonstrate their alignment with the GPs.
As these dynamics develop, the question arises as to what good reporting on company alignment with the UN Guiding Principles – and good assurance of such reports – should involve. RAFI aims to help answer this question. The proposed reporting and assurance frameworks will be public, meaning that they will be non-proprietary and publicly available to all companies and assurance providers to use in their work. They are intended to be relevant to, and viable for, all companies and auditors/assurance providers in any region, and to dovetail with existing reporting initiatives. (The Business And Human Rights Reporting And Assurance Frameworks Initiative (“RAFI”) Project Framing Document, November 2013, p. 5).
This post suggests that while the RAFI project represents an essential advance in the project of providing a usable framework for practicing respect for human rights, the project remains a work in progress.  The post suggests some areas that require continued attention.  Among the most important are RAFI objectives (RAFI cannot be all things to all stakeholders, and the effort to make it so make dissipate its usefulness).  As important, to the extent that RAFI is to be used  as a culture changing project, these cultural components will have to be aligned to corporate interests more directly.  Yet to the extent that RAFI can be understood as  a mapping project, its structures may require some fine tuning.  Lastly, it may be important for RAFI to be sensitive to and avoid a heroic approach to human rights reporting. The work of creating cultures of human rights sensitivities as a core basis of corporate culture requires fewer heroes and many more ordinary people who perform their roles in corporate operations without regarding the human rights sensitive portions of their work as "special" or extraordinary" or somehow not an ordinary part of their work.  It is to that end that RAFI might judge its effectiveness as a vehicle for internal discipline and external disclosure.

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2014)

On 16 June 2011, the UN Human Rights Council endorsed Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights for implementing the UN “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework.  Developed under the mandate of John Ruggie as Special Representative to the UN Secretary General on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises, the GPs provide – for the first time – a global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity. The Guiding Principles are framed as three related governance regimes--a 1st Pillar state duty to protect human rights, a 2nd Pillar  corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and a 3rd Pillar obligation to provide effective remedies for breaches of human rights. These pillars
are grounded in recognition of (a) states' existing obligations to respect, protect and fulfill human rights and fundamental freedoms; (b) the role of business enterprises as specialized organs of society performing specialized functions, requiring to comply with all applicable laws and to respect human rights; and (c) the need for rights and obligations to be matched to appropriate and effective remedies when breached. (GP General Principles).
The efforts of corporations and other business enterprises under the GP are founded on the 2nd Pillar responsibility (GP Principles 11-24) to respect human rights, which requires corporations to "avoid infringing on the human rights of others and should address adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved" (GP Principle 11) as a specific expression of the general obligation of corporations "as specialized organs of society performing specialized functions, required to comply with all applicable laws and to respect human rights" (GP General Principles (b)).  They also extend to the responsibility to "provide for or cooperate in [the] remediation [of adverse human rights impacts] through legitimate processes" (GP Principle 22) and to the 3rd Pillar obligation to "establish or participate in effective operational-level grievance mechanisms for individuals and communities who may be adversely impacted" (GP Principle 29). "Operational-level grievance mechanisms perform two key functions regarding the responsibility of business enterprises to respect human rights. First, they support the identification of adverse human rights impacts as a part of an enterprise’s ongoing human rights due diligence. . . . .Second, these mechanisms make it possible for grievances, once identified, to be addressed and for adverse impacts to be remediated early and directly by the business enterprise, thereby preventing harms from compounding and grievances from escalating." (GP Principle 29 Commentary).

Unlike the state duty to protect human rights under the 1st Pillar, the corporate responsibility to respect human rights is better and more specifically defined.  Yet that responsibility is complicated by the inherent polycentricity of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights (e.g., Backer, Larry Catá, "Governance Without Government: An Overview and Application of Interactions Between Law-State and Governance-Corporate Systems", in Beyond Territoriality: Transnational Legal Authority in an Age of Globalization 87-123 (Günther Handl, Joachim Zekoll, Peer Zumbansen, editors, Leiden, Netherlands & Boston, MA: Martinus Nijhoff, 2012)).  On the one hand, all enterprises share a basic obligation to comply with applicable laws (GP Principle 23(a)).  The determination of the extent of legal obligation where more than one set of national laws may apply (as would be the case where a host state may apply its laws extraterritorially to reach corporate conduct that may also be subject to regulation by the law of the host state) remains unsettled and its resolution may sometimes be complex. Still, the basic obligation is both well understood and uncontroversial.  On the other hand, the responsibility to respect human rights extends beyond a mere obligation to comply with law to a set of transnational norms that are themselves derived from international law and norms originally applicable under public law principles to states. 
The responsibility of business enterprises to respect human rights refers to internationally recognized human rights – understood, at a minimum, as those expressed in the International Bill of Human Rights and the principles concerning fundamental rights set out in the International labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and
Rights at Work. (GP Principle 12).
Though the obligation to comply with applicable law is highly contextual and may vary form jurisdiction to jurisdiction, "business enterprises have the same responsibility to respect human rights wherever they operate." (GP Principle 23 Comment). This autonomous responsibility, grounded in international norms, also informs the nature of the corporate obligation to comply with local law.  The responsibility to respect human rights includes seeking "ways to honour the principles of internationally recognized human rights when faced with conflicting requirements" (GP Principle 23(b)).

The GPs specifiy three distinct though related undertakings of enterprises that seek to meet their responsibility to respect human rights:
(a) A policy commitment to meet their responsibility to respect human rights;
(b) A human rights due diligence process to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address their impacts on human rights;
(c) Processes to enable the remediation of any adverse human rights impacts they cause or to which they contribute. (GP Principle 15).
 The GPs then provide substantial guidance for undertaking the development of conforming policy commitments, on the structure of human rights due diligence and on the general approach to corporate based remediation. (GP Principles 16-23). These, then, form the heart of the manner through which corporations practice respecting human rights in their operations.

But principles are not instructions in the appropriate way in which to undertake the crafting of policy commitments, the organization and operation of appropriately structured and routinized human rights due diligence, or the deployment of adequate remediation facilities.  Moreover, principles, even those as tightly drafted as the GPs, require application--and in the application, interpretation of the GPs in context.

Recently important elements of civil society have undertaken a variety of approaches to the development of institutional and routinized structures within which corporations could seamlessly comply with their 2nd Pillar responsibilities. In some cases, corporations have sought to develop their own structures and to routinize them within their corporate cultures.  In many other cases, civil society, transnational private and international public organizations have sought to provide guidance.
As these dynamics develop, the inevitable question arises as to what good reporting on company alignment with the UN Guiding Principles--and good assurance of such reports--should involve. Some existing reporting standards offer a number of human rights-related indicators–notably the Global Reporting Initiative’s new G4 framework. So do various social audit protocols and sustainability assurance standards. And some industry or issue‐specific initiatives have developed more detailed indicators in those focal areas. However, none of these initiatives, alone or in combination, cover the breadth of a company’s responsibility to respect human rights as set out in the UN Guiding Principles. (The Business And Human Rights Reporting And Assurance Frameworks Initiative (“RAFI”) Project Framing Document, November 2013, p. 5).
This proliferation of standards and approaches have produced markets in compliance.  That is a perhaps necessary consequence of the anarchic nature of the transnational sector in which the corporate responsibility is situated (Backer, Larry Catá, Governance Polycentrism -- Hierarchy and Order Without Government in Business and Human Rights Regulation (January 1, 2014), Coalition for Peace and Ethics Working Paper No. 1/1 (2014)).  Yet that center-less autonomy of norm system universes, even those revolving around a principles based center like the GP, has consequences. Where markets commodify the mechanisms of communication, then the possibility of speaking across platforms becomes more difficult.
This creates a risk to the clarity, predictability and global convergence that the UN Guiding Principles have fostered regarding companies’ baseline responsibility for human rights. Without a widely-accepted framework for reporting company implementation of the Guiding Principles, and a parallel framework for assuring such reports, we can expect to see a proliferation of interpretations in practice. Reports and audits will become highly
divergent in their reflection of the Guiding Principles. This will undermine the ability of
the Guiding Principles to continue to drive improvements in practice, which in turn will be to the detriment of human rights, society and business. (The Business And Human Rights Reporting And Assurance Frameworks Initiative (“RAFI”) Project Framing Document, November 2013, p. 5).
The RAFI project seeks to address this gap that is emerging as enterprises (and to some extent states) seek to contribute to the operationalization of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights by providing a variety of discretionary or mandatory (piecemeal mostly) frameworks within which respecting human rights may be undertaken, measured, reported and assessed. The RAFI project team represents a coordinated effort of civil society actors. It includes Shift and Mazars, who work in liaison with the Human Rights Resource Centre. Shift is an independent, non-profit center for business and human rights practice. Mazars is a global provider of audit, accountancy, tax, legal and advisory services. The Human Rights Resource Centre is a non-profit academic center working on human rights issues in the Association of South East Asian Nations (“ASEAN”).  RAFI is overseen and steered by an Eminent Persons Group (“EPG”) which consists of leaders from a broad range of stakeholder backgrounds, globally and in ASEAN. (The Business and Human Rights Reporting and Assurance Frameworks Initiative (“RAFI”) Project Framing  Document, November 2013, p. 10). The work of the RAFI team may be accessed HERE, Here and Here. The reports of the EPG may be accessed at  Conference call report of November 21, 2013 and Meeting report of March 20, 2014.

The RAFI team explained that its fundamental purpose was to confront the risk that the proliferation of methodologies to 2nd Pillar compliance would create "a risk to the clarity, predictability and global convergence that the UN Guiding Principles have fostered. . . . Reports and audits will become highly divergent [that] will undermine the ability of the Guiding Principles to continue to drive improvements in practice. (The Business and Human Rights Reporting and Assurance Frameworks Initiative (“RAFI”) Project Framing  Document, November 2013, p. 5). In place of this market for methodology, RAFI would offer a "widely-accepted framework for reporting company implementation of Guiding Principles, and a parallel framework for assuring such reports" (Ibid) to address the gap between principle and practice under the 2nd Pillar. 

Much of RAFi's work has been widely distributed, in line with its objective of seeking wide consultation and engemaent in developing its reporting framework.
In February, RAFI published the project team’s key take-aways from these consultations, which will guide the project’s direction in 2014. They are available here: Take-aways from RAFI Consultations.
Full reports of the discussions that have taken place on RAFI can be found here:
Bangkok multi-stakeholder workshop report, 22 Nov 2013
Jakarta consultation report, 20 Nov 2013
Jakarta CSO consultation report, 18 Nov 2013
New York consultation report, 23 Oct 2013
London consultation report, 17 Oct 2013
Medellín Workshop Report, 30 Aug 2013 (from Shift RAFI PROJECT)
An outline of the project’s next steps for the first half of 2014, including consultation plans, are available here: RAFI Feb 2014 Next Steps Summary.  The Take-aways from RAFI Consultations is particularly useful. It suggests the parameters within which critical stakeholders have considered the issue of human rights reporting, its objectives, utility, scope and, most importantly, its form.

Also particularly helpful, as part of that work, was Shift's Report: Evidence of Corporate Disclosure relevant to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Draft Paper for Discussion (April 2014).  It's purpose was to "inform understanding of how companies currently report on their human rights performance, and how this maps against the UN Guiding Principles" (Ibid., 3).  It considered "the extent to which company disclosure covers information relevant to the “headline statement” of each Guiding Principle [and an] assessment of supporting evidence provided by the company for each Guiding Principle." (Ibid., 3). The Report concluded, without much surprise, that through leading companies committed to human rights due diligence have been building disclosure and reporting systems, much of what is disclosed is general and policy based, the disclosure frameworks do not focus well on reporting specific impacts and responses, and virtually none reported on shareholder engagement.   (Ibid., 13-14).

The contours of the reporting and assurance framework is discernible in preliminary form in the Discussion Paper produced by Shift and Mazars, Developing Global Standards For the Reporting and Assurance of Company Alignment With the UN Guiding Principles On Business And Human Rights: A Discussion Paper (May 1, 2013, esp. Annex B "Elements of the Guiding Principles for Inclusion in the Reporting and Assurance Standards").  These would closely follow the GP "headlines" for Principles 16 through 23 with additional layers adding detail.  RAFI reporting standards would be organized around "(1) the contents of the human rights Statement, (2) the identification and assessment of salient human rights risks, (3) public disclosure of how specific risks or impacts are addressed, and (4) additional information in the Statement." (Ibid., pp. 10-13). One level of detail might include the specific areas or sectors of greatest interest to the reporting entity.  Another layer might add detail about the mechanics of human rights due diligence.  And an additional layer might provide space for relating specifics with respects to systems, claims and remediation. This would permit a heightened level of specificity about a reporting entity's  human rights policy, the way ion which the policy is embedded within its operations, and disclosure relating (at least in the aggregate) about the entity's salient human rights risks and their mitigation efforts.  The structure would also encourage assessment of the entity's human rights mechanics. The assurance review is tied ot the focus of reporting.  (Ibid., pp. 13-18).

It is in this context that it might be useful to consider the form and challenges that face important projects like that of RAFI. The RAFI project is both necessary and realistic.  It means to provide a mechanism that makes it easier for enterprises to develop and apply a robust human rights management system that are relatively uniform.  RAFI intends its reporting platforms to serve as one of many non financial reporting systems, to "complement existing and on-going initiatives in this field." Yet at the same time, the RAFI initiative, could be incorporated as a component of a company's financial reporting, through which RAFI reporting "could contribute to, and become a part of, integrated reporting through which companies communicate holistically on what may impact the sustainable value of the business." (Shift and Mazars, Developing Global Standards For the Reporting and Assurance of Company Alignment With the UN Guiding Principles On Business And Human Rights: A Discussion Paper (May 1, 2013, p. 9).

RAFI desires to tailor its reporting mechanisms to encourage reporting that is useful, but that appears to be both driven from the top (reflecting the GPs insight that ownership of human rights management at the very top of supply chains is critical to the success of the operationalization of a corporation's second pillar responsibilities) but also be sensitive to the needs (in terms of information and system focus) of internal, external, private and governmental stakeholders. Simultaneously, the RAFI reporting mechanisms are meant to provide a means for improving reporting.  It is useful as a gateway reporting and management system creation but also encourages the development of more sophisticated as responsive systems (and the reporting that goes along with it). RAFI is focused on narrative reporting, paralleling in some small respect, the approach to management's reporting of its internal oversight systems under the Sarbanes Oxley Act Section 404.  But this does not rule of quantitative measures (though it is unlikely that civil society will view quantitative measures without suspicion). The initial end objective is clear and straightforward: "global and widely accepted process for companies to demonstrate whether their policies and processes are indeed aligned with the UN Guiding Principles and therefore capable of meeting their responsibility to respect human rights." (Shift and Mazars, Developing Global Standards For the Reporting and Assurance of Company Alignment With the UN Guiding Principles On Business And Human Rights: A Discussion Paper (May 1, 2013, p. 5).

Yet that goal of developing robust human rights management and reporting systems, and the value of the mechanisms developed through RAFI, are not undertaken in a vacuum.  On one hand, RAFI's success will have to be measured against the mechanisms, now deeply embedded in corporate and governmental cultures (of assessment and management), of financial reporting.  The level of standardization, routinization and cultural embeddedness that has effectively turned financial reporting as the most legitimate basis of "seeing" a corporation, and the effects on which remain the most critical element of corporate decision making is the "gold standard" against which any sort of non-financial organizational. reporting, assessment and decision decisions will be measured. And that measurement will occur whatever the preferences of the human rights community, of civil society, of businesses, of governments or others.  On the other, RAFI's project is not limited to the same limited set of stakeholder communities to which financial reporting and management are directed.  Global civil society, impacted communities, indigenous groups and others, with little direct interest in or use for financial reporting and management, have a significant stake in human rights management systems.  And while financial reporting is directed outwards primarily to the investor and consumer communities, and to the state, human rights management has more of a public character in its scope and nature.  Thus the approach to human rights management reporting, even those grounded in the GPs, will have to share a similar set of  functional objectives of financial reporting with respect to legitimacy, cultural embeddedness and effectiveness.  More importantly, human rights management reporting and assessment systems must be comparable (one should be able to read and compare the reports of a variety of companies relating to their human rights management the way that one can compare the financial performance of the same companies).  But it may be structured formally in distinct ways that reflect its character, nature and scope of the needs of the communities served by or through such reporting. But the goal of producing functionally equivalent objectives (over the long term) through the development of formally distinct mechanics may prove challenging.

The challenge may be heightened where overarching objectives, system mechanics, and focus on audience may appear to be unresolved.  A focus on headline statement coverage as the core element of reporting may produce lots of paper and very little specifics, and perhaps even less incentive toward implementation.  ("The opening “headline statement” to each Guiding Principle defines the overarching expectations of that particular principle, and is then followed by bullet-pointed sub-elements that provide further detail on specific expectations." (Shift's Report: Evidence of Corporate Disclosure relevant to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Draft Paper for Discussion (April 2014), p.3)). Yet more robust reporting may be resisted as liability engendering.  Moreover a headline statement approach may also suggest that the bulk of reporting focus on central office practices and policies rather than on reporting and implementation that focuses on the operational levels down the supply chain. Moreover, a focus on leadership companies, while necessary to create cultural buy-in and further a lead-by-example from the top, may conceal the reality that most smaller and less well resourced enterprises may have little incentive to report and fewer resources to report well.

There is also a tendency among some members of civil society and industry to disaggregate the GPs and view than as a set of tools for assessing specific risks.  The GPs may be understood, in this light, as little more than a template through which companies understand their responsibility to avoid specific wrongs contextually driven by corporate operations. That approach avoids the need to understand the GPs as systemic in quality and thus as a template for framing general reporting and human rights management systems. As a consequence, human rights reporting can be disaggregated and reporting undertaken in a piecemeal and fragmented way.  This can produce little by way of information that may be assessed across companies or even internally against a general standard.  It also misunderstands the fundamental nature of the 2nd Pillar in ways that could undo its value. Related to this approach is the idea that reports, in scope and focus, ought to be driven by investors, civil society, or other noisy stakeholders.  This also has a tendency to fracture reporting (as well as the human rights management program) of an enterprise and reshape human rights due diligence from an active obligation of business to a passive response to its loudest and most effective critics. There is no "system" in this approach--there is just a more broadly applied "active shareholder" template.

But fracture and human rights wrongs "hunting" inherent in these approaches may also produce perverse results.  On the part of downstream supply chain partners, it produces a tendency to hide wrongs and the sort of quasi adversarial relationships one sometimes sees with aggressive downstream human rights and behavior control systems that require constant monitoring (and reduces the likelihood that downstream managers will internalize human rights sensitive norms--which ought to be the object of these systems). On the part of home state operations, it produces a sense that "these wrong" occur only in less developed, foreign, and downstream partners.  As a consequence there is less pressure to turn human rights management systems inward to review operations at the home state or in the human rights management system itself.  On the part of system development it creates a tension between a systems operation approach that is legislative in structure (human rights problems ought to be deduced and managed through rules that are enforced through mandatory compliance systems grounded in policing) versus ones that are understood as judicial in structure (problems in practice serve as the basis for determining what is going wrong and its resolution provides a means for determining how to fix the problem). Companies use a bit of both, but the RAFI methodologies might be pushed to order these approaches in ways that may not reflect the diverse realities of enterprise operations in context.

What an outsider looking at the RAFI process as an exercise in identifying and solving an institutional behavior management problem, the diverse challenges may produce is a tendency toward the creation of pretty but sloppy systems.  Each of these difficulties weakens the goal of routinization and institutionalization of systemic human rights management and reporting that is more than the aggregate of responses to the occasional human rights wrong. They will appear to please everyone consulted but effectively provide little other than optics that are are most useful to corporate marketing and shareholder relations departments at the head office of global corporations.  And, indeed, from the summaries of prior consultations it appears that pleasing all powerful constituencies may well produce contradictory movements that make construction of a management system nearly impossible.

The unresolved binaries, with strong advocates on both sides, makes progress difficult. And the failure to resolve the binaries, or to explode them by making them irrelevant for reporting and system construction, revolve around a number of key issues in reporting structures creation and ultimately  human rights management systems.  These systemic tensions include:
1.Operation philosophy: economic project versus cultural project
2.Operation mechanics: problem solving versus top down and legislative
3.Responsiveness: reactive (wrongs driven) versus proactive (rules driven)
4.Output Projection: effective internal responses (data generation and assessment) versus transparency (information dissemination)
5.Functional targets: practical behaviors inside and outside enterprise versus ideology of human rights.

Taken together these tensions suggest the greatest challenge to the RAFI project.  Many of these systemic tensions may not be reconciled; some might be avoided.  But a failure to acknowledge these tensions, and the choices they suggest, may weaken the project.  It will certainly produce sloppiness in system construction, sloppiness that may substantially weaken the effectiveness of the RAFI reporting systems (and thus weakened, also weaken the assurance function). At worst, unresolved, these tensions might become contradictions that may produce a slide toward systemic paralysis--designed to please everyone by making all things possible, the system will please no one, and lose its cohesion as effective and normative coherent reporting system that encourages and improves reporting--and assurance/audit. 

There is another tension that may be exposed through the RAFI framework.  Reporting conflates two distinct regulatory systems within which the corporate enterprise must conform its behavior.  The first is the law system of the states, home and host, in which it operates directly or indirectly through supply chain relationships. These obligations are legally binding but fragmented; and they may not be consistent across the operational scope of corporate activity within their value chains. Each jurisdiction will have formally distinct law and policy frameworks (some but all of which may converge in the human rights field), only some of which may derive from national implementation of international obligations. Each jurisdiction may also impose distinct reporting regimes on some but not all human rights related activities.  RAFI must incorporate these distinct and diverse reporting and normative obligations as part of its framework to make it workable in fact.  The failure to make space for this may reduce its value to enterprises already obliged under a growing number of fragmented and distinct reporting and normative regimes seeping into the enterprise's 2nd Pillar responsibilities from the 1st Pillar state duty. The second are those human rights responsibilities that are derived from the responsibility to respect and touch on corporate social norms rather than legal obligations territorially constrained. These, as the GPs make clear are transnational responsibilities and ought to infuse all decision making, irrespective of local legal and policy cultures (e.g., GP Principal 23).   

Taken together the drive toward reporting uniformity might mask operational fragmentation, which may diminish the power of the reporting framework. Alternatively, reporting uniformity in the face of distinct legal, policy and normative regimes may fragment reporting itself so that it may be impossible to speak of of a RAFI report but instead to speak to RAFI approaches to multi-purpose and sourced reports.  That might encourage universalism and harmonization at the level of 2nd Pillar norm responsibilities, but may also shear away law and policy based reporting in ways that diminish the overall power of a human rights management system. In both cases, reporting that is pretty but sloppy is more likely. Yet, neither alternative is inevitable, but a solution requires both recognition of the issue and an effort to seek resolution, perhaps through categorical reporting mechanisms.

An equally thorny set of issues arises within the context of actually developing the framework within which reporting may be structured. Some of these issues arises in the shadow of the robustness and cultural predominance of financial reporting.  For example, the issue of materiality is central to reporting within the culture of financial reporting; and it has been built into the law of liability for disclosure fraud.  The RAFI framework seeks to avoid materiality in favor of salience, an important distinction that reminds enterprises that the object of reporting is not merely external, but also points to materiality in external effects,. But salience is not a term of art well known in the reporting community of business and it will take some effort to naturalize the concept among reporting entities. And even then, the possibility that salience will be treated as an outward vectored form of materiality (material to those who experience human rights wrongs, for example) should not be underestimated.

In addition, the core objective of routinization and standardization may substantially affect the form and content of the RAFI reporting framework.  The tendency of some in civil society is to make the RAFI narrative as extensive and detailed as possible.  Related to that is the notion that such narrative reporting ought to disclose specific instances of wrongs that might then be assessed for the appropriateness of remediation or response.  Yet the utility of the reporting device as a means of internal control may suggest a distinct approach.  In any case, overwriting narrative requirements can easily make the RAFI framework to complex or burdensome to be useful. It may please its drafters but it will produce disincentives to comply. Standardization and routinization is contextually driven exercise. That requires some certainty about core reporting framework issues: (1) which companies will actually engage in reporting (inducement function); (2) which stakeholders are going to read the reports (utility function); (3) which reporting frameworks are compatible with a RAFI system (syncing function); and (4) which approach to reporting  will induce internalization of human rights norms (naturalization function).  These components of routinization are themselves dependent on corporate incentive structures for systems creation: there are few incentives for companies to engage in the operation of management systems unless they are required to by law, it is in their financial interests, or it forms part of business culture. This was well understood in the development of the 2nd Pillar; the insights are as applicable to operational system building.

Thus, if RAFI is building a human rights reporting system, it is well worth considering the character of the construct for the reporting framework. My sense is that RAFI framework construct might be usefully understood as a mapping exercise rather than as anything like a due diligence manual.  RAFI might be understood as developing mapping structures in four distinct areas.

1. Mapping internal company policy (derived from law/norms/culture/policy).  This substance mapping serves a chapeau function from which the structure of the details of RAFI reporting follows.
2.  Mapping external manifestation/effects/occurrences (salience or material risk silos). This form or objective mapping serves a routing function for reporting.
3. Mapping operationalization (through rules and response procedures). This process mapping serves to routinize and describe the systems for application of company policy in context.
4. Mapping results or objectives manifestation universe (remedies/transparency/engagement).  This process mapping serves to document end of cycle activity, the products of which affect the mapping of policy, manifestation and operationalization (mapping 1,2 and 3).  This forms an operational closed loop that can then build on itself through constant application and reapplication of the normative universe  that fuels the project.
5. Mapping storytelling (discussion of actual events).  This cultural mapping serves to normalize the mapping process and its behavior habits, making it easier to internalize its normative structures within the corporation's institutions and the  values of its employees.
Yet, if the RAFI project construct is usefully understood as a complex mapping exercise, then the project might benefit from fine tuning to emphasize the mapping organizing premise.  To that end two organizing principles may be useful: First, mapping is a process of aggregation.  That is a useful way of understanding the salience standard (though not necessarily its object), and the lack of focus on granularity in reporting. Even storytelling is not an exercise in granularity; storytelling is a means to cultural normalization. Second, mapping is manifested systemically as an exercise in solidifying abstraction through systems construction, that is mapping is not a descriptive exercise, it is essentially normative. That normative element drives the RAFI project to a focus on institutional framing through its reporting  structures, that is on the government of human rights, its law (policy), its apparatus (institutional structure), its process and its remedial universe.    

Focusing reporting on the government of human rights within enterprises avoids the rights versus risks debates on reporting organization by reframing the discussion as an institution building project.  Rights, risks and action specificity become second order events.It also avoid the heroic approach to human rights reporting.  As an institutional and communal exercise, it avoids the idea, far too often cultivated in some governance cultures, of reducing human rights compliance to individual effort--to the hero, the whistle blower the critical person.  Building institutional cultures broadens the class of people heavily invested in the human rights project within enterprises. Lastly, it avoids dissimulation through narrative and obfuscation through data harvesting approaches.

Taken together, it is clear tat RAFI presents an important opportunity to operationalize the 2nd Pillar responsibility to respect human rights in ways that promote changes to institutional cultures and naturalization fo those changes within corporate work forces. Yet it is also clear that both sloppiness and an inclination to mold the project to please everybody can substantially weaken the project.  Rigor and well articulated goals that target institution building around mechanics for exercising in practice the corporate responsibility to respect human rights may well produce a significant advance to the routinization of human rights, like financial considerations, as basic to corporate decision making.


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