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Report: Human Rights and Sustainable Finance - Exploring the Relationship

Report: Human Rights and Sustainable Finance - Exploring the Relationship
Societies in which segments of the population suffer extreme poverty, marginalisation and discrimination, create social pressures which, in turn, strain environmental and economic resources.

This report analyses the role of human rights in delivering a sustainable financial system at three levels of interaction: the systemic level, client level and consumer level.

In the wake of this global financial crisis, recognition has grown that the financial system must not only be sound and stable, but also sustainable. With this in mind, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) launched an Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System in early 2014 to explore how to align the financial system with sustainable development. 

Numerous research papers were commissioned by the UNEP Inquiry on different aspects, with IHRB asked to explore the relationship between finance and human rights. This complements the Inquiry's global report, The Financial System We Need, published in October 2015.

Designing and building a sustainable financial system requires a broad focus on what sustainability requires in all its aspects and how finance can help deliver on that important objective. This task includes not only delivering financing for sustainable environmental outcomes and addressing climate change, but it also includes attention to the needs of a sustainable society.

It follows that a sustainable future for all requires a coherent vision of how the layers of society, economy, environment, and finance interact, and the role of the financial system in facilitating sustainable livelihoods and societies.

This report aims to contribute to this debate through considering the role of human rights in delivering a sustainable finance system. It considers three levels of interaction between the financial system and human rights:

  • the systemic level – how can regulatory actors and key regulatory leverage points incorporate human rights
  • the client level – how can financial institutions address the identifiable human rights impacts of their sovereign and corporate clients’ activities
  • the consumer level – how can financial institutions address the human rights impacts of their products and services directly on consumers and promote human rights enjoyment through new products and services.

By looking at these three levels, the Report seeks to highlight the multi-faceted roles and contribution that human rights can make to a more sustainable and more ethical financial system.

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Document PDF, 360 downloads, Feb 08, 2016

Related Commentary:  

Designing a Better Global Financial System – Why Do Human Rights Matter?

Image: UNEP





Mary Dowell Jones
Mary Dowell-Jones is a Research Fellow at the Human Rights Law Centre, University of Nottingham.

Motoko Aizawa
Motoko Aizawa is Managing Director of IHRB USA.

Margaret Wachenfeld
Margaret Wachenfeld is Director of Research and Legal Affairs at the Institute for Human Rights and Business.

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