This Blog Essay site devotes every February to a series of integrated but short essays on a single theme. The Ruminations Series in 2009 produced a month long series of aphoristic (ἀφορισμός) essays, meant to provoke thought rather than explain it. The hope was that, built up on each other, the series would provide a matrix of thoughts that together might lead the reader in new directions.
For 2010, this site introduces a new series--Business and Human Rights. The series takes as its starting point the issues and questions raised by John Ruggie, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) on business and human rights, in a global online forumThe U.N. "Protect, Respect, Remedy" framework is made up of three pillars: the State duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business; the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, which means to avoid infringing on the rights of others; and greater access by victims to effective remedy, judicial and non-judicial. The forum is currently focused on the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, the second pillar of the framework. The forum is divided into sections, each of which contains multiple topics with space for discussion and comment.New Online Forum for U.N. Business and Human Rights Mandate, United Nations Press Release, New York and Geneva, Dec. 1, 2009. Each of the Essays will consider one of the topics raised in the online consultation. My hope is to help generate discussion and to encourage further discussion of the issues within the framework fo the consultation framework.
Part V: Human Rights Due Diligence--Introduction
Most companies would say that they respect human rights -- certainly none would state that they don't. But how do they demonstrate to themselves and their stakeholders that they are indeed meeting this responsibility? Companies need a process to do so: a process of human rights due diligence, whereby companies become aware of, prevent, and mitigate adverse human rights impacts.
The SRSG uses “due diligence” not in the transactional sense of research undertaken before entering into a specific deal, but in its broader traditional meaning: “the diligence reasonably expected from, and ordinarily exercised by, a person who seeks to satisfy a legal requirement or discharge an obligation”. (Black's Legal Dictionary)
Human rights due diligence may be incorporated into a broader management system; indeed it would make sense to consider human rights due diligence to be part of corporate governance. Human rights due diligence may also be compatible with processes for identifying opportunities for a company to develop new business and promote human rights. But the SRSG’s focus is preventing and mitigating business's negative impacts, so human rights due diligence is for that specific purpose -- for a company to meet its responsibility to respect human rights.