News & Events

Prof. John Ruggie Comments on the Thun Group of Banks

22 February 2017.

Harvard Professor and IHRB Chair John Ruggie has produced a discussion paper on the implications of the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights in a corporate investment and banking context.

An exerpt is provided below, with the full discussion paper available on Harvard Kennedy School's Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative.

I welcomed the Thun Group of Banks’ initiative to elaborate on the application of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) to banking when it first started up some five years ago. A paper published by the Group in 2013 marked an important first step.

I am also keenly aware that, beyond their own walls, corporate and investment banking may face greater challenges resulting from diverse and complex business relationships than, say, a mining company. But banks are not alone in this respect. Other sectors, such as telecoms and social media, encounter comparably complex challenges. I applaud all efforts conducted in good faith to clarify and bring greater granularity to the implications of the UNGPs for different sectoral and operational contexts.

Having said that, I am deeply troubled by the discussion paper the Thun Group has just recently published. It misconstrues the central Guiding Principle regarding the corporate responsibility to respect human rights (UNGP 13). This takes the subsequent analysis in the paper off-track and poses the risk of confusing if not undermining what has been the common understanding since the UN Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed the UNGPs in 2011.