This is the first part in a blog series on Human Rights and the Private Sector.
A recent surge of interest on how private sector operations affect human rights is leading CSR into a new, challenging, and exciting journey. Much of this buzz has been triggered by the work of Harvard professor John Ruggie. John Ruggie’s Framework for Business and Human Rights is part of his work as Special Representative of the Secretary-General through the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The most recent report identifies the Special Representative’s progress in operationalizing the framework through practical guiding principles. These efforts have culminated in countries endorsing the framework and guidelines through the UNHRC this past June.
STR RS will be blogging about different aspects of the framework and guiding principles in an effort to inform our clients of the importance of this work and provide insight on what the framework means for businesses.
The Ruggie framework marks an important systemic approach to the treatment of human rights by states and corporations, following what he deems the three pillars of Protect, Respect, and Remedy. It was created through years of multi-stakeholder consultations including global law firms, companies, investors, NGOs, and international institutions.
The framework is increasingly necessary to identify the distinct but complementary responsibilities of states and corporations in addressing human rights, so that each does not claim that the other is responsible while abuses continue unabated. With the global scope of modern business and the tangle of international and national standards (or lack thereof), it can be difficult for companies to know what they are responsible for.
In short, according to the framework and guidelines, global companies are expected to comply by:
- Adopting a human rights policy
- Verifying non-infringement through human rights due diligence
- Addressing any human rights abuses the company was involved in
- Measuring and reporting on human rights compliance
The Ruggie framework marks a shift in the scope of international standards for compliance programs. While previous compliance programs have focused on labor or environmental standards, the Ruggie framework addresses all human rights, specifically refusing to limit the list. It also expands the notion of who the company is responsible for – not only to internal stakeholders but to all business partners, certain actions of State actors, and the broader community.
Our next blog will take a deeper look at the framework and its different pillars. Stay tuned!