Business Case for the Human Rights Principles
"Social responsibility is a matter of hardheaded business logic. It’s about performance and profits, and attracting the best people to work for you."
John Browne, Chief Executive, BP
How does the Universal Declaration of Human Rights relate to business?
* Many human rights listed in the UDHR are directly relevant to business and concern issues which many companies routinely address in their day-to-day operations. These include the labour-related rights, freedom from discrimination, the right to health, the right to privacy, to mention but a few.
* States have a duty to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of their citizens ...view middle of the document...
Although many companies routinely apply human rights in their operations, there is substantial debate over which human rights can and should apply to business, in what way, and what should happen in cases where companies are alleged to be violating human rights. The exact boundaries of companies’ human rights responsibilities still need to be clarified.
* In 2005, the United Nations Commission of Human Rights asked the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Representative to identify and clarify standards of responsibility and accountability for companies with regard to human rights. This work is still ongoing, but is expected to be completed in 2007.
* In 2003, an expert body of the United Nations developed a set of Norms which spelled out the human rights obligations of companies, focusing on the right to equal opportunity and non-discrimination; the right to security of persons; the rights of workers; consumer protection; environmental protection; and economic, social and cultural rights. While these Norms have no formal legal status, they may provide illustration to companies wishing to better understand human rights and the content of the human rights commitment they have undertaken by signing on to the Global Compact.
What are the risks facing companies who fail to address human rights issues?
* Allegations of human rights violations may inflict serious damage on a company’s reputation. The reputation of big brand-name companies is particularly vulnerable to human rights allegations. According to the International Organisation of Employers, the mere accusation that a company is using child labour in its operations, either directly or indirectly, can lead to an immediate blow to its reputation and the threat of consumer boycotts.
* Companies that fail to take allegations of corporate human rights abuse seriously do so at the risk of substantial damage to their company’s reputation among key stakeholders, including customers, investors, shareholders, and current and prospective eemployees.
* Companies may also be exposed to lawsuits if they fail to address human rights issues within their sphere of influence. Victims of alleged human rights violations are increasingly seeking legal remedies in order to hold companies accountable for the alleged violations.
* Companies may also face a risk from...