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2 Aug 2021

Amnesty International

Amnesty report finds world’s largest venture capital firms fail to demonstrate adequate human rights due diligence processes

"World's top ten venture capital firms all failing over human rights due diligence - new report", 30 July 2021

All but one of the world’s largest venture capital firms have failed to put in place robust human rights due diligence policies, Amnesty International revealed today in a landmark new report.

In the first comprehensive report on the human rights responsibilities of venture capitalists, Amnesty examined all the firms on the Venture Capital Journal’s list of the 50 largest VC firms, as well as three leading tech accelerators (Y Combinator, 500 Startups and TechStars). 

These comprise 41 companies based in the USA, six in Europe (including France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK), and six in China. Amnesty reviewed publicly-available information on each venture capital firm’s human rights due diligence processes, and sent letters to the firms requesting additional information.

Amnesty’s 49-page report - Risky Business: how leading venture capital firms ignore human rights when investing in technology - found that none of the ten largest companies - which together have raised nearly £60 billion during the last five years - had adequate human rights due diligence policies in place...

Overall, of the 50 venture capital firms and three tech accelerators examined, Amnesty found that only a single company (Atomico) had due diligence processes in place that potentially meet standards outlined in the UN Guiding Principles.

Amnesty’s research highlights the fact that venture capital firms fund companies whose products are sold to repressive governments and cause or contribute to human rights abuses. For example, venture capital-backed technology companies provide spyware equipment to the Chinese government, forming part of the dystopian surveillance infrastructure used to monitor the persecuted Uighur population in Xinjiang.

Companies relying on app-based or “gig workers”, such as Lyft and Uber, also receive important funding from venture capitalists, despite employees often facing exploitative and abusive work conditions.