Companies face heightened challenges respecting human rights when operating in conflict-affected contexts. Russia began a ‘military operation’ in Ukraine on 24 February, 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
Operating in conflict-affected contexts: An introduction to good practice
How should responsible business assess the situation in Ukraine? We have adapted materials developed by the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance and the International Committee of the Red Cross to provide an introductory guide to good practices for companies operating in conflict-affected contexts.
BHR impact of the invasion
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 and environmental due diligence processes couldn't be clearer.
Russian invasion of Ukraine: What companies have to say about their human rights due diligence
BHRRC invited 272 companies operating or investing in Ukraine and/or Russia to respond to questions about human rights due diligence.
Ukraine: Responsible business conduct in a war of aggression
For companies leaving Russia (or Ukraine), their responsibility does not end with this decision. Phil Bloomer & Ella Skybenko set out what steps business should take, not just in response to current Russian aggression in Ukraine, but also to mitigate risk longer term risk.
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