Human Rights Assurance is coming…

This year doesn’t mark the first time the UK’s largest companies have been obliged to report on how they respect human rights. In fact, back in 2013, the Companies Act 2006 was amended to include a requirement for UK listed companies to report on their human rights performance in their Strategic Reports.

Human-Rights-FrameworkYet, this statutory requirement has largely been ignored. Last week’s  study by the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply provided similar news – only two thirds of companies legally required to publish an annual statement on the steps they are taking to eradicate slavery in their supply chains, had published any statement.

What’s the problem? It is likely that many companies just do not understand how they – or their suppliers – are at risk of human rights violations, including slavery. (more…)

Don’t miss the point of non-financial reporting

Boards must understand the importance of sustainability and long-term value to their businesses, and that means taking non-financial reporting requirements more seriously.

Board-table-grass-coveredThe EU Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD) is the latest attempt to persuade companies to integrate sustainability, amongst other areas, into key business structures and processes, and report what they are doing to tackle these key risks. (more…)

Four steps for business to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

On 25 September 2015, at the United Nations General Assembly over 150 world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); all 17 of them, with 169 sub-targets to be achieved by 2030. They cover most of the laudable aims that any sensible person who wants our society to thrive and survive on this planet for the longer term would want to see achieved including:

  • eradication of poverty, hunger, gender inequality;
  • access for all to education, clean water, sanitation and healthy wellbeing;
  • action to combat climate change; and,
  • preservation of our natural ecosystems.

The SDGs are aimed at all stakeholders in society: governments, civil society and businesses both large and small. (more…)

Five tips for staying on top of your human rights obligations

Corporate respect for human rights is a critical part of any business’s success and future prosperity. It’s not only about brand protection, it’s also about brand enhancement. But in a complicated environment, what steps can you take to ensure your company is complying with its human rights responsibilities?

1. Set the right tone at the top

A high-profile study by Goldman Sachs (detailed in Robert Eccles’ One Report: Integrated Reporting for a Sustainable Strategy) found that companies with sustainability and respect for human rights embedded into their business models outperformed the MSCI World index by 18 per cent.

By making human rights a core aspect of a company’s operations from the top down, effective management teams demonstrate that they understand the wider risks to the business and markets in which they operate. (more…)

Why due diligence and assurance of human rights performance are essential tools to protect people and companies – Part 2

In my previous blog, I discussed the international influence the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) has had, and continues to have, on ensuring companies respect human rights and the unparalleled support across nations. (more…)

Why due diligence and assurance of human rights performance are essential tools to protect people and companies – Part 1

In 2012 and 2013, “human rights audits” took place at two garment manufacturing factories: one at Ali Enterprises in Pakistan, the other at Tazreen Fashions. Weeks after both “audits” took place, over 400 workers’ lives were lost due to fires at the factories.  Social, or human rights, auditing was in the spotlight.  After all what is the value of a human rights audit if it doesn’t achieve the protection of the very workers which the audits were supposed to address?

Amongst all the issues being poured over to see what went wrong, I believe a key one, was the very name itself; “auditing.” This term implied that a certain level of comfort was achieved by those who were relying on the outcome of this “audit.”  However, based on what I have read, it turns out they were little more than spot checks performed over a day or two.  They were not part of a wider management system for assessing the risks, and the impacts on workers. The only comfort that could have been taken from these “spot check audits” was that on the days of the reviews, the two factories were compliant.  And even that is questionable, based on what we have heard about the quality of the “audit”.

These so called “audits” gave little insight into wider worker protection processes and controls in place nor the effectiveness of any grievance mechanisms, or even if they existed. And yet, in both cases, certificates were provided. When the customer sees a certificate, a box can be ticked to say that the supplier has been checked and that their supplier has been socially audited. In respect of Ali Enterprises and Tazreen, one mistake, compounded by others, resulted in lives lost and various companies’ reputations taking a battering.

So how has the world moved on since those disasters? (more…)