1. Embedding respect for human rights across all business relationships
Growing awareness of the human rights impacts of business relationship activities will command greater attention on the corporate responsibility agenda over the coming year. Images of children stitching footballs and women bent over sewing machines for long hours have previously spurred attention to the question of the responsibility of businesses for what happens in their value chains... read more
But until recently, public focus has rested almost exclusively on human rights impacts in supply chains. Yet supply chain relationships are only one part of the larger web of business relationships that can be seen today.
The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights have put the full range of business relationships squarely on the agenda for companies around the world. The Guiding Principles make it clear that the responsibility to respect human rights extends to managing adverse human rights impacts through business relationships and provide guidance on how to prevent and address those impacts.
While attention to human rights in business relationships currently covers only a tiny fraction of the huge range of daily interactions between companies of every size, in all sectors and locations, those have the potential to become a key avenue for spreading awareness and implementation of the responsibility to respect human rights in the years ahead.
A new joint report by the Institute for Human Rights and Business and the Global Business Initiative on Human Rights titled “State of Play – The Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights in Business Relationships” explores the steps that a small number of large multinational companies are currently taking to begin to embed attention to human rights in a wider range of relationships, including but also going beyond supply chain – to relationships such as franchising and licensing, joint ventures and mergers and acquisitions.
Over the next five years, an increasingly wider set of relationships will command greater attention from governments, business, civil society, trade unions and consumers as attention to human rights in business relationships continues to deepen and widen.