Commentary

Human Rights and the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative - A Conversation

Fiona Solomon is the CEO of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI), a multi-stakeholder initiative dedicated to creating a responsible aluminium value chain, from bauxite mines to computer cases.

She sat down with ASI Standards Committee...

25 April 2018

By Fiona Solomon, CEO, Aluminium Stewardship Initiative , Kendyl Salcito, Executive Director, NomoGaia

Beyond a Simple Trading of Powers: An Alternative Future for the Global Mining Industry?

Observers of the mining industry, including those who are watching from the inside, have witnessed a growing demand for governments to safeguard people and the environment, and for business leaders to take greater responsibility in the prevention...

12 June 2017

By Deanna Kemp, Trustee and International Advisory Council Member, IHRB, John R Owen, Associate Professor, Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, University of Queensland, Australia

Home Government Incentives Toward Responsible Business Conduct

The ‘governance gap’- the gap between where law extends compared to where business activity goes - was a driving force behind the creation of the UN ‘Protect, Respect, Remedy’ Framework and Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UN Guiding...

22 March 2017

By Margaret Wachenfeld, Managing Director, Themis Research; Senior Research Fellow, IHRB

Standing Rock Sioux - A Model for Protection of Planet and its People

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe met with representatives of Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) on October 30, 2014 and learned of their plans to build the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a 1,172 pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois that would carry...

21 December 2016

By David Schilling, Senior Program Director, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility

From Deal Maker to Diplomat? Business and Human Rights Questions for Rex Tillerson

What does the nomination of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to be the next United States Secretary of State mean for the business and human rights agenda?

The selection of Mr. Tillerson is the latest move by a President-elect who campaigned on the...

19 December 2016

By Scott Jerbi, Senior Advisor, Policy & Outreach, IHRB

Dakota Access Pipeline and the High Cost of Violating Indigenous Rights

Growing concern in the United States over the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) – a 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline that will connect the Bakken and Three Forks production areas in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois – has resulted in a...

26 September 2016

By Rebecca Adamson, Indigenous Economist, serial social entrepreneur, and trustee Calvert Social Investment Funds

The Infrastructure We Don’t Want - OECD Infrastructure Advice to the G20

This commentary was originally published on the Heinrich Böll Foundation website

As global growth has stalled over the last few years, the Group of 20 countries (G20) has made infrastructure investment a centerpiece of its policy work, expecting...

08 June 2016

By Motoko Aizawa

Alternative Mining Indaba - Meaningful Company-Community Dialogue Remains a Key Challenge

The 7th annual Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI, Indaba meaning ‘conference’), hosted by the ecclesiastical Economic Justice Network, took place from 8-11 February 2016 in Cape Town, South Africa. The AMI has grown steadily since its inception in...

25 February 2016

By Ida Westphal

Settlement Involving Niger Delta Fishermen Leaves Shell More Exposed Than Ever

It is paradoxical that a court action taken against Shell by Niger Delta fishermen is likely to have greater consequences than a ground-breaking United Nations report. There has been no real progress since the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP)...

12 January 2015

By Peter Frankental, Economic Relations Programme Director, Amnesty International

The Private Security Industry and Human Rights: An update on the ICoCA

Much of the press coverage concerning the recent criminal conviction of four former Blackwater security guards in a United States District Court has focused on the difficulty and length of time it took for the case to finally work its way through...

30 October 2014

By Andrew Orsmond

Government Approval Not Enough, Businesses Need Social License

This article was originally published on YaleGlobal Online

Globalization drives business deals around the globe along with keen new awareness about social, environmental and other consequences of development. Best business practice now demands...

22 October 2014

By John Morrison, Chief Executive, IHRB

Business and Society: Defining the ’Social License’

This article, by IHRB Executive Director John Morrison, was originally published in The Guardian on 29 September 2014.

Business leaders, politicians and civil society set a common direction towards new global agreements on climate change at the UN...

01 October 2014

By John Morrison, Chief Executive, IHRB

Ensuring Respect for Human Rights at Sea

The international “Human Rights at Sea” (HRAS) initiative was recently launched with the aim of raising the profile, awareness, implementation and accountability for human rights protections throughout the maritime industry, especially where they...

20 May 2014

By David Hammond

Women’s Leadership Can Transform the Way We Do Business in a Climate-Constrained World

This article was originally published in the HuffingtonPost.

As a global community, we find ourselves at a critical juncture. One path -- the "business as usual" route -- sees us approach a drastically warmer world, where our continuing reliance on...

07 May 2014

By Mary Robinson, Patron, IHRB

How to strengthen the EU’s conflict minerals proposals

Earlier this month the European Union announced plans aimed at limiting global trade in minerals mined in conflict zones. While the goal of the new initiative is laudable, the approach being proposed – essentially a voluntary reporting scheme – is...

26 March 2014

By Margot Wallström

“Going Out” in Search of Oil and Gas: How should Chinese companies investing abroad tackle human rig

Amid soul searching for causes of the unexpected February slump in Chinese exports – maybe it’s the Chinese New Year, or perhaps the start of a real down turn? – China’s overseas direct investments (ODI) continue to flow vigorously.

According to...

24 March 2014

By Motoko Aizawa

Making Public-Private Partnerships Work

This op-ed was originally published on Thomson Reuters Foundation News channel trust.org.

A full agenda awaits business executives, government officials and civil society representatives attending next week’s U.N. Global Compact leaders summit in...

11 September 2013

By John Ruggie, Patron, IHRB

Kenya’s Emerging Natural Resources Sector: Getting it Right

Kenya is the latest country to discover oil and gas reserves with potential for commercial production. Interestingly, Kenya has been exploring for oil since the 1950’s but strong interest only took hold around 2000 after the completion of a national...

05 September 2013

EU key to further progress on conflict minerals

The ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the deadliest since World War II. Over five million lives have been lost and ongoing violence is currently responsible for an estimated 1,100 rapes per month.

It is widely accepted...

22 August 2013

By Margot Wallström

From Principles to Practice: three new guides support three sectors in respecting human rights

With the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights just passing their second birthday, it is a fitting time for the emergence of more detailed guidance to encourage their implementation.

As a contribution to this objective, last week the...

26 June 2013

By Margaret Wachenfeld, Managing Director, Themis Research; Senior Research Fellow, IHRB

Now the real work begins: Implementing the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Servic

The last decade has seen an explosion in the use of private military and security contractors by governments, industry, the U.N., and humanitarian organizations. Meanwhile, the means to hold these companies and their personnel accountable for...

20 March 2013

Progress in Corporate Accountability

Last week Human Rights Watch released its 2013 World Report. It includes an essay by Senior Researcher Christopher Albin-Lackey decrying the hard won and widely adopted UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (GPs) as being “woefully...

04 February 2013

By John Ruggie, Patron, IHRB

Views on Kiobel vs. Shell

Last week the United States Supreme Court once again considered the case of Esther Kiobel vs. Royal Dutch Petroleum (Detailed background of the case here). It is too soon to say what the Court’s verdict will be, but whichever way the judges decide,...

09 October 2012

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

From Sandline to Saracen - Time to hold the private security industry to its human rights commitment

Over a decade after the sanctions busting scandals around the British private military company Sandline, some might argue little has changed.

In July 2012 a UN Monitoring Group alleged that another private military and security company (‘PMSC’)...

25 September 2012

By James Cockayne

Lonmin Tragedy: Time to Take Human Rights Due Diligence Seriously

Earlier this week, only days after South African police opened fire killing 34 striking workers at a mine operated by UK based company Lonmin (which operates several mines for precious metals including platinum), company executives ordered 3,000...

23 August 2012

By Kendyl Salcito, Executive Director, NomoGaia

Business Reponsibility for its Social Impacts - Moving Beyond CSR

This op-Ed was originally published on TheGuardian.com.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been based largely on the assumption that the business case always aligns with the societal case as long as enough philanthropy is dispensed. The...

25 June 2012

By John Morrison, Chief Executive, IHRB

Making the Market a Force for Good

This op-Ed was originally published on TheGuardian.com.

Many companies already understand the important role they play in supporting the wellbeing of communities, but what can be done to ensure social responsibility becomes a key part of corporate...

25 June 2012

By Saba Salmon, Freelance social affairs journalist, commissioning editor and blogger, and regular contributor to Society Guardian

Aung San Suu Kyi Signals Change in Burma, but Investors Should Proceed with Caution

This op-Ed was originally published on Csmonitor.com.

The recent decision by the Obama administration to ease economic sanctions on Myanmar (also known as Burma) presents an important opportunity to reintegrate that country into the international...

19 June 2012

By John Ruggie, Patron, IHRB

What Should Companies do when States Offer Prime Land on a Platter?

This op-Ed was originally published on TheGuardian.com.

Companies investing in land in Africa and elsewhere need guidelines to ensure the human rights and dignity of local communities are protected

During a recent visit to Kampala, Uganda, we...

06 May 2012

By Wambui Kimathi, Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

The Hidden Impacts of Large Infrastructure Projects on Children

This op-Ed was originally published on TheGuardian.com.

People swarm towards big infrastructure projects like bees to honey, but the interests of children are often overlooked

Though conjuring up images of Winnie the Pooh, the honeypot effect...

03 May 2012

By Margaret Wachenfeld, Managing Director, Themis Research; Senior Research Fellow, IHRB

Uneven Road to Doing Business in Burma

This op-Ed was originally published on TheGuardian.com.

Foreign businesses face formidable challenges in making sure their investments in Burma are not only profitable but also based on internationally accepted principles

Businesses are...

19 April 2012

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Water security – a different perspective

Last month, the U.S. Intelligence Community, at the request of the U.S. State Department, published a global water security assessment addressing the question: “How will water problems (shortages, poor water quality, or floods) impact U.S. national...

12 April 2012

By Daniel Yeo

Children’s Rights Finally Getting the Attention they Deserve

This op-Ed was originally published on TheGuardian.com.

Recognition of children as important in the broader human rights and business discussion has been a long time coming

Children's rights are finally getting the attention they deserve on the...

30 March 2012

By Margaret Wachenfeld, Managing Director, Themis Research; Senior Research Fellow, IHRB

Slaves in the food chain: when compliance isn’t enough

A new law in the U.S. state of California which took effect in January of this year – the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act - requires companies over a certain size with any retail or manufacturing presence in the state to post on their...

12 March 2012

By Diane Osgood

Developing Practical Tools for Business on Land and Human Rights

Earlier this week, my colleagues Salil Tripathi and Wambui Kimathi wrote in the Guardian about the difficult ongoing challenges surrounding land acquisition and use in many countries around the world. A key dimension of addressing the many negative...

08 March 2012

By Kelly Davina Scott, Regional Liaison Manager, IHRB

Kiobel Case a Reminder of Remedy Gaps Still to be Bridged

This week, the United States Supreme Court is at the centre of the global business and human rights agenda.

The Court is hearing oral arguments in Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., a highly anticipated case expected to determine whether claimants...

28 February 2012

By Haley St. Dennis, Communications Manager, IHRB

Joint action needed to address land grabbing

For the past decade, foreign investors have been looking for greener pastures in Africa. Some foreign governments and private enterprises acquire long-term leases of large portions of arable land as part of efforts to secure sufficient food and...

01 December 2011

By Marina d’Engelbronner-Kolff

From Red to Green Flags

How can a company ensure respect for human rights in countries where the government is failing in its own obligations? This question lies at the heart of a new report published today by the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB).

From Red...

02 May 2011

By Nick Killick, Research Fellow, IHRB

Ignore the Naysayers, Restrictions on DRC Conflict Minerals Remain Vital

This op-Ed was originally published on TheGuardian.com.

US legislation to encourage transparency in the trade of precious resources might mean a loss of income for Congo's artisanal miners, but the alternative is prolonged conflict

A string of...

10 April 2011

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Protecting Human Rights and Environmental Defenders

Human rights defender is a term used to describe people who, individually or with others, act to promote or protect human rights.i Some individuals and groups are working to protect the human right to a healthy and safe environment, and also defend...

Conflict no excuse for business to act irresponsibly

As violence in Libya continues, tens of thousands of people of different nationalities, many of them migrant workers from countries ranging from China to India, Ethiopia to Nigeria, await ferries that can take them to safety across the...

15 March 2011

By Mary Robinson, Patron, IHRB

Land, Water and Food: Advancing Human Rights Due Diligence

Earlier this month, the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) in partnership with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) brought together representatives from governments, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) (Uganda,...

28 February 2011

By Wambui Kimathi

Vulnerable Livelihoods, Vulnerable Communities

Can human rights help companies better understand the true impact of their activities on the displacement of informal sector work?

"I spend most of my life in complete darkness – save for the light of my torch – mining cassiterite (tin ore) in...

01 December 2010

By Christine Jesseman, Emily Keeble

International Code of Conduct for Private Security Providers

Last week in Geneva, nearly 50 global private security firms came together to sign an International Code of Conduct (ICoC) with the objective of strengthening respect for human rights and humanitarian law within their operations. In addition to...

24 November 2010

By Nils Rosemann, Human Security and Business Desk, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs

Universal Children’s Day - End the Worst Forms of Child Labour

November 20 marks Universal Children’s Day. Established by the United Nations over 50 years ago, it is a day to encourage countries to initiate action to promote the welfare of children. This year Anti-Slavery International is calling upon the...

18 November 2010

By Joanna Ewart-James, Supply Chain Co-ordinator, Anti-Slavery International

Rural Economies - The Keystone of Food Security

The topics of hunger, poverty, and food security dominate the headlines as the Committee for World Food Security meets in Rome this week leading up to World Food Day on October 16. Last month, world leaders met at the United Nations Summit on the...

14 October 2010

By Juan Gonzalez-Valero , Head of Public Policy and Partnerships at Syngenta International AG

Rough Business - Diamonds and Conflict

The campaign to halt ‘conflict diamonds’ began in the early part of the 2000s, several years before Leonardo DiCaprio’s Blood Diamond film, and long before Naomi Campbell and Mia Farrow testified at the war crimes trial of former Liberian President...

13 September 2010

By Ian Smillie, Chair, Diamond Development Initiative

Controversy Over Niger Delta Oil Pollution Study - Getting to the Facts

The gaps between stakeholders embroiled in the ongoing debate over the curse of oil in Nigeria crystallized again when The Guardian turned the spotlight in a recent article on a UN Environment Programme (UNEP) study assessing the environmental...

08 September 2010

By Bjorn Edlund, Co-chair of Trustees and International Advisory Council Member, IHRB

Controversy Over Niger Delta Oil Pollution Study - Independence and Impartiality

For the past three years the UN Environmental Program (UNEP) has been investigating the environmental impact of oil spills in Ogoniland in the Niger Delta.

Although the report is not due until early 2011, an article in the Guardian last month...

08 September 2010

By Irene Khan

Are Current Approaches to Responsible Supply Chain Management Working?

Sustainable or responsible supply chain management (RSCM) emerged in the 1990s as an important part of the corporate responsibility (or corporate social responsibility - CSR) discourse. Over the past two decades, leading corporations have...

12 August 2010

By Sune Skadegaard Thorsen, CEO of GLOBAL CSR

Where is CSR Heading?

The global economic crisis has shaken the manufacturing industry to its core over the last couple of years, and the impact on workers has been palpable around the world.

The economic and social turmoil placed a tremendous responsibility on all of...

21 July 2010

Responsibilities Beyond Borders

Efforts to stop the biggest environmental disaster in US history continue in the Gulf of Mexico with few signs of progress. The explosion on an oil rig in April which was operating one of the Gulf’s deepest oil wells killed eleven workers. The flow...

30 June 2010

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Checking in on Corporate Human Rights Reporting

At the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) biennial conference last week, one of the sessions was dedicated to “the Future of Human Rights Reporting”. The panelists, drawn from diverse sectors, covered a wide range of issues.

These included the...

31 May 2010

By Elizabeth Umlas, Independent researcher and consultant

Further Steps Taken to Operationalise the Protect Respect and Remedy Framework

On 9 April the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on human rights and business, John Ruggie (the SRSG), issued his 2010 Progress Report [24 pages, 146kb] (the Report) on the operationalisation of the “protect, respect and remedy”...

25 May 2010

By Peter Muchlinski

Towards Responsible Corporate Behaviour in Conflict Zones

With the globalization of economic activities, in certain areas of poor governance, power has effectively shifted from State to corporations. In these permissive environments, corporations have the potential of getting involved in the commission of...

19 May 2010

By Heloise Dumont, Associate Legal Officer, International Criminal Court

Putting the Protect, Respect, Remedy Framework into Practice

Last week, the latest report under my mandate as Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General on business and human rights was released in advance of the June session of the U.N. Human Rights Council. This is my last interim report before I...

29 April 2010

By John Ruggie, Patron, IHRB

Have the Voluntary Principles Realised Their Full Potential?

Extractive industries have little choice but to operate where they find resources. As a result, they may find themselves in conflict zones, facing human rights abuses taking place in their area of operations. Many have argued that since these abuses...

17 March 2010

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

The Voluntary Principles at 10

As the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights plenary convenes in London this week, a pivotal agenda awaits participants that will frame the issues and decisions which must be made if the Voluntary Principles (VPs) are to fulfill their...

17 March 2010

By Bennett Freeman

Knowledge of Human Rights Risks - Company Friend or Enemy?

Is knowledge of human rights risks a company’s friend or its enemy? No one likes bad news, and messengers who deliver it may choose to do so gingerly. But it’s critically important for a company to investigate, understand, and act on facts - however...

03 March 2010

By John Sherman, Senior Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School of Government

Small Change - Why Business Won’t Save the World

What’s the best way for business to contribute to realizing human rights? I’ve been pondering that question over the last few days in the light of Google’s decision to oppose censorship and protect the email accounts of activists in China, going so...

19 January 2010

By Michael Edwards

Timberland - Business Willing to Engage but a Multi-Stakeholder Effort Needed

IHRB's Executive Director John Morrison wrote a compelling post in late September about the need for rapid scaling of progress on human rights – a view we wholeheartedly share. It has taken us 15 years to get to where we are – to create what can...

30 November 2009

By Jeffrey Swartz, President & CEO, The Timberland Company

Operationalising Human Rights - How Hard are Companies Trying? 

Our commentary on the Trafigura case highlights how a combination of weak governance and business expediency can result in negative impacts on human rights. But what exactly should business do to prevent such situations arising in the first place?

...

29 September 2009

By John Morrison, Chief Executive, IHRB

Getting Land Acquisition Right

"Eminent domain" (also known as "appropriation", "compulsory purchase" or "expropriation" in some countries), the legal principle under which a government can take over private property for public purpose after paying due compensation - even if the...

18 September 2009

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Reflections on the Trafigura Case

This commentary was originally published in the Guardian on 18 September 2009. 

As incidents of industrial pollution, human rights abuses, the quest for justice, and ultimate settlement go, the Trafigura case is a milestone. Its remarkable...

18 September 2009

By John Morrison, Chief Executive, IHRB

Food Security and the Private Sector - Thinking about Human Rights?

This week the UN released its latest findings on the extent of world hunger. The report – marking World Food Day 2009 and its theme - "Achieving food security in times of crisis" - makes for grim reading.

More than one billion people around the...

16 September 2009

By Scott Jerbi, Senior Advisor, Policy & Outreach, IHRB