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Russia and Ukraine

The Russian military aggression against Ukraine puts a spotlight on businesses operating in the region and their human rights responsibilities. Civil society calls upon companies to conduct heightened human rights due diligence, while some businesses including financial institutions, tech platforms, oil and gas majors are taking steps towards a responsible exit from the Russian market.

Business & human rights in conflict-affected areas

Companies face heightened challenges respecting human rights when operating in conflict-affected contexts. Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, which the UN General Assembly has condemned, calling on Moscow to “unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine".

Recognising this ‘act of aggression’ and that international armed conflict is underway, businesses and investors operating or investing in the region, and especially those with links to the Russian state, must avoid contributing to violations of international humanitarian law. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) provide guidance, outlining the need to take extra steps in their human rights due diligence processes and adopt a conflict-sensitive approach due to the heightened and severe risk of gross human rights abuses. A conflict-sensitive approach emphasises effectively preventing, managing and addressing conflict, including by seeking to understand conflict dynamics and related risks

“Businesses are not neutral actors; their presence is not without impact. Even if business does not take a side in the conflict, the impact of their operations will necessarily influence conflict dynamics.”
UN Working Group on Transnational Corporations, Business, human rights and conflict-affected regions: towards heightened action

BHR impact of the aggression

There has been a strong focus on business operations in Russia following its invasion of Ukraine - in a way not seen in other international conflicts. This is largely due to the severe economic sanctions placed on the Russian State, but highlights how company monies fund - wittingly and unwittingly - oppressive regimes. Their responsibility to implement comprehensive human rights due diligence process couldn't be clearer.

Russian invasion of Ukraine: What companies have to say about their human rights due diligence

BHRRC invited 400 companies operating or investing in Ukraine and/or Russia to respond to questions about human rights due diligence.

Ukraine: Global outrage over Russian invasion leads to sanctions, demands for businesses to divest

Russian invasion of Ukraine puts spotlight on businesses operating in the region and their human rights responsibilities

Partial mobilisation in Russia: Companies’ reaction to law that obligates businesses to assist with war mobilisation efforts

BHRRC invited 143 companies to respond to questions regarding actions they have taken or plan to take in response to the implications of the mobilisation law.

Guidance: Responsible business conduct in challenging contexts

Heightened human rights due diligence for business in conflict-affected contexts

Guidance from UNDP and the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights

Conducting business during armed conflict

What is International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and how do companies comply with their obligations? Guidance from Business and Human Rights Compliance