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2 Jun 2015

Menno T. Kamminga, Maastricht University

Menno Kamminga of Maastricht Univ. analyses Business & Human Rights Resource Centre’s company response database

"Company Responses to Human Rights Reports as an Indicator of Compliance with Human Rights Responsibilities", 26 May 2015

“Naming and shaming” continues to be the principal method by which companies are held accountable for human rights abuses. This occurs primarily through NGO reports and investigative journalism. How companies respond (or do not respond) to such reports is therefore of great interest. The responses provide clues for campaigners and regulators on corporate attitudes towards human rights...The company response database of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre is a treasure trove of information. It contains responses to some 2000 requests made by the Resource Centre over the past 10 years. A quantitative analysis of these data generates the following information:

  • The extractive sector remains the industrial sector that gives rise to the highest number of human rights reports. The number of reports on abuses in the information technology sector (covering both threats to internet freedom and working conditions in the electronics industry) is on the increase, however.
  • While the average company response rate to human rights reports remains stable at 70% there are significant differences between companies, industrial sectors, and corporate home states. The least responsive are state-owned conglomerates and companies based in China, India, Israel and Russia. Companies based in Brazil and South Africa have a much higher response rate than companies headquartered in BRICS in the Northern hemisphere. Companies participating in the UN Global Compact have an above average response rate but being a participant in the Global Compact does not in itself guarantee a high response rate.
  • Companies are generally more inclined to respond to reports about alleged abuses within their own countries than to abuses committed abroad.
  • Company responses containing references to international instruments or multi-stakeholder initiatives are rare indeed. Less than 1% of responses acknowledge that companies have a responsibility to respect human rights.