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1 Nov 2021


B-Tech Community of Practice reflections on strategic aspects of business respect for human rights: themes for further attention

In April and May 2021, the B-Tech Company Community of Practice (COP) met for three two-hour sessions focused on the topic of The Strategic Aspects of Business Respect for Human Rights. This note offers the B-Tech Project’s reflections from sessions which focused on three cross-cutting themes that merit further industry and multi-stakeholder discussion.

Theme One: Business decisions about products/services that are important for the realization of human rights.

In COP sessions, B-Tech team members raised the question of how the “do no harm” focus of the UNGPs should inform company decision-making when the deployment and use of a technology that might cause harm can also deliver considerable societal benefits… As a starting point for companies seeking to address such realities, the B-Tech Project offers the following steps. Companies may ultimately make decisions based on balancing risks to people with the potential upsides to society of product/service design, deployment, sale. What companies should not do is attempt to formulate a cost-benefit analysis of the technology at a theoretical level, absent concerted effort to identify and mitigate the harms.

Theme Two: Integrating HRDD and risk to people into enterprise-level risk management.

In COP discussions, participants also raised the question of how appropriate and feasible it is to integrate a company’s Human Rights Due Diligence efforts into enterprise-level risk management or compliance processes…

With regards to the opportunities and practicalities of integrating human rights concerns into Enterprise Risk Management, the group reflected that this should start with an understanding of leading practice and the latest evolution of the discipline of enterprise risk…

An additional feature of enterprise risk management that participants discussed was how to delegate risks to an appropriate level of an organization…

Theme Three: Innovating to improve the quality of stakeholder engagement as part of HRDD

Throughout the COP sessions in early 2021, a consistent issue highlighted by company practitioners was the challenge of implementing effective stakeholder engagement as part of human rights due diligence and remediation. The COP companies noted that the UNGPs expectations regarding stakeholder engagement are clear and helpful i.e., that as part of HRDD companies should engage affected stakeholders or their representative organizations, as well as civil society, academic and other experts that can credibly advise on a company’s human rights systems and risks…