Blog series on measuring implementation of UN Guiding Principles on business & human rights

Measuring Business & Human Rights launched a blog series on how to assess and track implementation of the UNGPs.

Contributors were asked to address the following questions:

  1. How can we measure progress in the implementation of the UNGPs? What are the most daunting challenges and/or the most promising solutions?
  2. Do you see progress in the implementation of the UNGPs? If so (or if not), what is the evidence in support of your argument?

See contributions below on a daily basis, leading up to the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights - list of blogs & authors available here.

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Article
3 December 2015

UN Forum Series Blog: Competition, Collaboration, and Corporate Accountability Rankings

Author: David Sullivan, independent consultant

Tech companies are in a tough sport when it comes to censorship and surveillance...In some cases, such as Tim Cook’s strong stance on encryption or the launch of Microsoft’s cloud services from German datacenters, it appears companies are competing with each other to offer more privacy. But the industry is also collaborating, for example, collectively lobbying the U.S. government to pass the USA FREEDOM Act through the Reform Government Surveillance coalition...Many companies have a strong aversion to being ranked on human rights or other non-financial issues...The Ranking Digital Rights index demonstrates the same potential for competitive collaboration on freedom of expression and privacy rights. It is not accident that the top three performing companies are the founding members of the Global Network Initiative...We have already seen constructive competition among tech firms in offering new features and greater disclosures as part of company transparency reports, and we can expect accelerating improvements along these lines going forward.

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Article
3 December 2015

UN Forum Series Blog: Human rights due diligence is redefining investment opportunities in frontier markets

Author: Anna Bulzomi, PwC

One of the most ambitious examples of translating the notion of human rights due diligence into practice comes from the Dutch Good Growth Fund (DGGF) – a €700 million revolving fund of the Dutch ministry of Foreign Affairs that aims at coupling aid and investment, with the ultimate goal of unlocking sustainable development in low and middle income countries...PwC’s Sustainability & Responsible Governance team conducts environmental, social, governance (ESG) due diligence on each fund that applies to DGGF...to unearth the key risks and understand the extent to which the intermediary funds are able to mitigate them...Our methodology looks at how the “Respect” pillar of the UNGPs has been unpacked and translated into the funds’ policies and processes...What we need to know, from a human rights due diligence perspective, is whether the policies, processes and controls actually work in practice, and how effective they are in addressing human rights risks across the whole portfolio. We need to test the capacity of the intermediary fund to work creatively to respect high standards even in countries with a track record of corruption and abuse.

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Article
3 December 2015

UN Forum Series Blog: Measuring progress through National Action Plans and sustainability reports

Author: Verónica Aranzazu Zubía Pinto, Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) arrived in 2011 to stay. They established an agenda that is constantly moving forward and will not pull back. The UNGPs have strong political support...But not all is a bed of roses. The practical implementation of this tool by states and companies has been slow. So slow, that in 2014 a group of states promoted an initiative aiming to develop a binding treaty on the matter....The political basis is strong but action is needed. For this purpose, states and businesses con use two tools respectively: National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights and sustainability reports that integrate human rights due diligence....Currently, nine states have finalized their first NAP on business and human rights and there are more than 20 on track to finishing a NAP. NAPs, as well as the human rights due diligence that companies should do, are a continuous process that require constant follow-up and improvement. They are not a first and singular effort.

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Article
3 December 2015

UN Forum Series Blog: Rhetoric of corporate responsibility is not enough: Corporations must walk the walk, not just talk the talk

Author: Katie Redford, EarthRights International

Fundamentally, most corporate managers still believe that human rights compliance is – and should be – strictly voluntary: something to take into account after they’ve made their quarterly earnings projections and have time and money left over for forward-looking, public goodwill projects. For me, human rights compliance must be mandatory. Preventing rape, torture, or forced resettlement should never be balanced or negotiated...I don’t believe in “good” and “bad” companies. It’s just that when companies are set up by definition to pursue profits to the exclusion of other motivations, they often disregard human rights if the economics demand it unless strong protections are written into law and are enforced consistently...The very same companies who talk about standards for corporate responsibility wage zealous legal battles to prevent actual enforcement of these same norms...My point is this: companies shouldn’t get positive grades for the codes of conduct they sign onto or the community projects they lead without also taking into account the ways that they throw their weight around to avoid accountability, intimidate their critics and co-opt the political process.

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Article
3 December 2015

UN Forum Series Blog: Think before you measure!

Author: Luke Wilde, twentyfifty

I will use this blog to reflect on some of our experience, rather than theory, of working with large companies to find ways of measuring corporate practice on human rights. I don’t seek to claim that any of these approaches as role models but they may stimulate some ideas, and I reflect on my learning at the end. The first example is a mining company. Over several years we helped them to set up their approach to responsible sourcing...We developed measures for the category teams designed to encourage behaviours to support program implementation and these evolved as the program progressed over 3-4 years...A recent agricultural project uses an audit-derived approach, featuring observations across multiple standards-based indicators. It is generating masses of data across multiple dimensions, but our review is asking some fundamental questions...Reflecting on this experience leads me to draw out these thoughts which really speak to the importance of putting some careful thought and effort into the design of your measures:

  • We’ve taken considerable care to think about what behaviours we want to see, and to design measures which encourage these whether they relate to program implementation or impact;
  • We are getting accustomed to dealing with both quantitative and qualitative measures, despite the challenges of measuring the latter;
  • In practice, we are finding it helpful to begin modestly and relatively simply and develop the complexity over time;
  • We are being careful to challenge whether the data being collected is meaningful, and can be reliably used in decision making;
  • Particularly at the bottom of supply chains, there is a challenge around quality and consistency of data collection, so we are encouraging collecting less with greater accuracy;
  • Even with the availability of high-tech solutions and data processing capabilities, if the data is to be inputted by people there is a significant investment required to ensure it is being collected consistently.

 

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Article
3 December 2015

UN Forum Series Blog: Time for the UNGPs to Grow Up? Tracking Children’s Rights in National Action Plans on Business & Human Rights

Author: Patrick Geary, UNICEF

When the UNGPs were first conceived in 2008, the UN Human Rights Council called for “special attention to persons belong to vulnerable groups, in particular children.” Sadly, after a three-year gestation period, the Guiding Principles emerged with scant reference to children...The degree to which government support for the UNGPs extends to children’s rights and business can be seen in the extent to which National Action Plans directly address the subject. To date, nearly all published NAPs mention children...Broad, overarching commitments to children’s rights are key, but should be accompanied by a firm understanding of how these will be realized in the national context. While all of these National Action Plans show movement in the right direction, no NAP to date has made clear, detailed commitments to address the full range of ways in which business impacts children...Equally, children’s views and voices have been conspicuously absent from the growing dialogue on business and human rights.

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Article
26 November 2015

UN Forum Series Blog: Asking the basic questions: Are voluntary standard-setting initiatives protecting human rights?

Author: Amelia Evans & Stephen Winstanley, MSI Integrity

Over the last two decades, voluntary standard-setting initiatives have proliferated, becoming one of the most popular tools for addressing the human rights impacts of global business activities...But despite their proliferation, we still cannot answer a fundamental question: are voluntary initiatives protecting human rights? More fundamentally, why don’t we know whether these initiatives are protecting human rights?...Standard-setting initiatives frequently trumpet the inclusion of new companies, or the expansion to new industries or issues, as markers of success. However, expanding the size or scope of an initiative should not, by itself, be seen as a measure of “progress” from a human rights perspective—an initiative could cover an entire industry, but have made few gains on the ground...[M]easuring human rights impacts or outcomes requires considerable time, resources, and expertise. It may also require key actors to open their doors to external evaluation. In instances when it is not feasible to measure human rights impacts, we encourage actors to use appropriate proxies to examine whether an initiative may protect human rights.

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Article
26 November 2015

UN Forum Series Blog: Linking the UN Guiding Principles to global reporting practice: Proof of increasing human rights reporting

Author: Teresa Fogelberg, Global Reporting Initiative

GRI recently looked at the 2014 and 2015 G4 sustainability reports in our Disclosure Database to find out how many companies reported on the 12 human rights indicators, four of which are directly based on the UN Guiding Principles...[A]lmost one third...of the companies reported on the issues of freedom of association, child labor, supplier human rights assessments, forced labor, and grievance mechanisms. One third of the reports include UNGP linked human rights indicators. The most frequently reported issue is Non-Discrimination (45%); the least reported is indigenous rights (17%). A quarter of all companies report that they train their employees on human rights policies or procedures. And 22% report that they have encountered significant actual human rights impacts in their supply chain and have taken action to remedy those impacts. Is the glass half empty or half full? I was myself pleasantly surprised by these numbers, and in particular by the disclosure of significant actual human rights impacts ‘on the ground’.

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Article
17 November 2015

UN Forum Series Blog: Business and human rights progress in the Japanese context

Author: Hiroshi Ishida, Caux Round Table Japan

Human rights are universal and belong to every human being in every human society. However, the “Western” philosophic foundations of human rights are not universally accepted in the Asian region, especially in Japan. Likewise, business and human rights standards (such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, UNGPs) are universally accepted. Yet, their implementation should be based on each different context...Based on this context, the Caux Round Table Japan started its work to implement “Business and Human Rights” in 2012 by establishing a platform to discuss human rights and their relevance to business operations. The platform is formed together with business, NGOs and academic institutions...

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Article
15 November 2015

UN Forum Series Blog: Meaningful rights-holders engagement is key for human rights impact assessments

Author: Alejandro González, Project on Organizing, Development, Education and Research (PODER)

One of the key challenges, and indeed an important benchmark, with regard to the effective implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) is that of meaningful consultation, dialogue, and engagement with affected, or potentially affected, rights-holders during human rights due diligence (HRDD) processes...Principle 18 of the UNGPs states that meaningful engagement of potentially affected groups and other stakeholders is an essential component of due diligence processes. However, in practice communities and other vulnerable or affected groups continue to be excluded from these processes and often face obstacles to their voices being heard...A notable example of...efforts to improve meaningful engagement and ensure actual participation of affected groups are community-led Human Rights Impact Assessments (community-led HRIAs)...While there is an increase in company-led HRIAs, it is also true that they often fail to engage properly with local communities...[C]ommunity-led HRIAs place communities’ concerns as the starting point and the planning and implementation of the process is conducted from the rights-holders’ perspective...

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