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19 Feb 2016

John G. Ruggie, Harvard Univ., former UN Special Representative on business & human rights

Companies' social development initiatives cannot substitute for actions to address negative human rights impacts, says John Ruggie

"John Ruggie on Sustainable Development Goals and UN Guiding Principles", 18 Feb 2016

[Letter to Global Commission on Business and Sustainable Development]

I am writing to call to your attention a particular risk I see in the current business discourse around the SDGs, in the hope that you may be able to turn it instead into the opportunity it should be: companies' social development initiatives cannot substitute for measures to address the negative human rights impacts their operations and relationships may have...[T]he UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which I authored, address exactly this impact­ reducing aspect of social development. Where people's human rights are not fully respected, their ability to enjoy the fruits of development are much reduced, and the disparities between the poor and most vulnerable and the rest of society only grow..[W]here companies focus resources on reducing the risks to people's human rights along their value chains, they not only reduce harm but also help advance development...Successful human rights risk management strategies reduce risks to the business — be it operational, reputational, financial or legal risk. They also create real and growing opportunities to find new customers, investors, partners and employees...