Monday, 29 Oct 2012
Crowds of people on a demonstration
Business and Human Rights
Prosperity though good business practice and mutual respect for human rights should be mutually reinforcing.
UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
In June 2011 the United Nations’ Human Rights Council endorsed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Principles are also known as the “Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework” for the three pillars they comprise, namely the State duty to protect against human right abuses by third parties, including businesses; the corporate responsibility to respect human rights of others; and the need for access by victims to effective remedies, judicial and non-judicial.
The Government is fully committed to implementing the Guiding Principles as part of its strategy on business and human rights and expects UK businesses to operate at all times in a way respectful of human rights whether in Britain or overseas.
We will strive to promote competitive and transparent conditions for doing business by spreading internationally agreed standards of responsible business behaviour and best practice, links to which can be found on this page.
Why should businesses care?
There is an emerging international expectation that companies need to demonstrate greater responsibility as participants in society and hat this can be as important to the success of a business as compliance solely with the law. Over 50 of the FTSE 100 companies have adopted a human rights policy statement. Public demands on companies to behave responsibly, together with pressure from affected communities and workers as well as civil society groups is also growing and these demands are increasingly framed in terms of human rights.
How can UK companies operating abroad respect human rights?
Human rights standards are set internationally. Even if a UK corporation is complying with national law / investment / trade agreements of a host country, these may come into conflict with, or simply not be up to, international human rights standards. Companies should be aware that they may be complicit in human rights abuses even where they are not the direct result of their own action.
Actions companies could take to ensure they are not having a negative impact on human rights could include:
Impact assessments which consider, in the planning stage, the social, environmental and human right impacts that can result from operations.
Ensuring effective monitoring and auditing processes within company and supply chain processes to track human rights impact.
Integrating human rights policies throughout the company and supply chain, including with stakeholders. This can be done through incentive structures for staff, training, remuneration, etc.
Considering involving local civil society groups (NGOs) in assessing the potential or actual human rights impact of the business
Review the Overseas Business Risk countries A-Z pages on this website for the human rights situations in prospective markets and consult with Commercial Officers at our Embassies for information on operating in countries where there are human rights concerns.
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