Human rights and business briefing paper

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This briefing paper sets out three of the challenges that business face in respecting human rights: ensuring human rights are relevant, getting beyond a policy statement, and measuring progress.


Key findings

  • 56 percent of companies have a specific company policy that references human rights.
  • 85 percent of executives believe human rights are a matter for business as well as the government.
  • Efforts need to be scaled up through business collaboration, sharing of best practice and stakeholder engagement.

Human rights are relevant to all businesses irrespective of their size, sector, location or scope.  The private sector is so diverse and broad in its reach that it can impact on the full spectrum of human rights: from the right of life and freedom of expression, to the right to education and the right to water.

The UN Guiding Principles (UNGP), set out the responsibilities of governments and business in relation to human rights. These principles are a significant step in establishing what is expected of business and what steps should be taken to ensure companies are acting responsibly.

Our experience from speaking to BITC member companies is that while larger and multinational businesses are aware of the UNGP, they often find it challenging to operationalise these principles within their business. More support is also needed to support small and medium sized businesses to undertake this journey.

Insight paper: Human rights and business