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IHRB Report:

State of Play: The Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights in Business Relationships

Geneva | 03 December 2012

In advance of the first annual United Nations (UN) Forum on Business and Human Rights, the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) and the Global Business Initiative on Human Rights (GBI) are releasing a new report that takes stock of efforts by a group of 14 international companies to address the human rights impacts associated with their daily interactions with business partners of all sizes around the world.

The new joint report by IHRB and GBI titled:
State of Play: The Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights in Business Relationships [180 pages, 1.81mb], examines how the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which were unanimously endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011 and have broad business and civil society backing, can and should inform business relationships in different sectors and locations across the world.

The Guiding Principles make it clear that a company may be involved with adverse human rights impacts in different ways – through its own activities and through its business relationships. They put business relationships squarely on the business and human rights map.

Based on discussions with representatives of 14 international companies, the report describes how human rights issues and the UN Guiding Principles are beginning to be incorporated into selected types of business relationships. The report’s findings indicate that the companies involved in the study are increasingly considering human rights impacts with which they are involved through their business relationships, and taking note of the UN Guiding Principles and the corporate responsibility to respect framework as they do so.

Although more and more companies are recognising solid business reasons to work with business partners to ensure respect for human rights in the delivery of operations, products and services to which they are linked, urgency and innovation are required from business, government and civil society to spread the message and follow up on results.

The report also makes clear that over the next five years, the types of business relationships addressed in the report including joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, supply chain and service providers, licensing and franchising, as well as an increasingly wider set of relationships, will command greater attention from governments, business, civil society, trade unions and consumers.

Moreover, not only businesses involved in production will come under the spotlight. Professional legal, accounting, consulting, lobbying, and tax advisers also have a responsibility to respect human rights as businesses in their own right.

State of Play - The Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights in Business Relationships

This report by the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) and the Global Business Initiative on Human Rights (GBI) examines how the Guiding Principles can and should inform business relationships – the daily interactions between companies of all sizes in different sectors and locations across the world.

In his foreword to the report, Professor John Ruggie of Harvard University, former UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights and current Chair of IHRB’s International Advisory Board notes that:

“Companies increasingly make reference to human rights issues in their business operations – in due diligence investigations, in contracts with partners, operational guidelines, and reports to investors and other stakeholders. All this, supported by the work of industry associations and multistakeholder initiatives and international organisations, is helping to build what the report calls ‘a culture of expected adherence to the UN Guiding Principles’.”

The State of Play report was produced with financial contributions from the Foreign Ministries of the Netherlands and Sweden (in the case of IHRB) and from companies participating in the project (in the case of GBI). It is available for free download on the websites of IHRB and GBI and will be officially launched in Geneva on 5 December at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights.

About IHRB and GBI

The Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) is dedicated to being a global centre of excellence and expertise on the relationship between business and internationally proclaimed human rights standards. The Institute works to raise corporate standards and strengthen public policy to ensure that the activities of companies do not contribute to human rights abuses, and in fact lead to positive outcomes.

The Global Business Initiative on Human Rights (GBI) exists to advance human rights in a business context around the world. The underlying vision is a global community of corporations from all sectors knowing and showing that they respect the dignity and rights of the people they impact and interact with. GBI is led by a group of 18 major corporations headquartered in Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North Africa and North America.

For more information contact:
Mark Hodge (GBI)
Margaret Wachenfeld (IHRB)

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