The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights state that all business actors should have a publicly available policy commitment to respect human rights. As the UN Working Group on Business & Human Rights 2021 guidance on human rights defenders (HRDs) makes clear, this includes developing policies on respecting the rights of HRDs and committing to zero tolerance for attacks against them.
The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre welcomes the growing number of company policies addressing the impact of their business activities on HRDs and recognising the important role of HRDs in human rights and environmental due diligence processes. However, despite these commitments, attacks on HRDs raising concerns about business-related harms and restrictions on civic freedoms persist worldwide and the vast majority of companies are falling short on their human rights responsibilities, including addressing harms to defenders.
Since January 2015, the Resource Centre has tracked nearly 5,000 attacks on HRDs raising concerns about business-related harms. These have taken place in every region of the world and relate to almost every business sector, with the highest number of attacks related to mining and agribusiness. This data illustrates the urgent need for all companies to adopt company-wide policy commitments to zero-tolerance for attacks on HRDs. It also shows that policy commitments are not enough – they must be accompanied by robust implementation and evaluation of their effectiveness. This includes integrating risks to HRDs into risk assessment processes, due diligence, and the design of grievance mechanisms, among other steps.
This tracker documents publicly available policy commitments in support of HRDs, primarily in the extractives (mining and oil), apparel, information and communication technology (ICT), food and agricultural products and automobile sectors based on assessments by the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB).
CHRB’s assessment incorporates the expectations for business actors under the UNGPs to fulfil their responsibility to respect the rights of HRDs (methodology available here).
Out of 260 companies assessed by CHRB, 46 have committed to not tolerate nor contribute to attacks against defenders. Only nine companies met all three CHRB criteria: commit not to tolerate nor contribute to attacks, expect the same in their business relationships, and actively engage HRDs to create enabling environments. These companies are Hewlett Packard, PepsiCo, SK Hynix, Unilever, Wilmar International, Woolworths Group, Adidas, Hanesbrands and Repsol.
Since beginning to record attacks against HRDs linked to business in 2015, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has consistently highlighted the mining sector as the most dangerous, linking 1,360 attacks to the sector over this period. Only five mining companies have policy commitments to not tolerate nor contribute to attacks on HRDs and expect their business relationships to do the same. No mining company complies with all three CHRB indicators.
Using this tracker
Use the tracker to see which companies have made the most progress in adopting policy commitments in support of HRDs, and identify gaps between company policy commitments and actual practice. Search for companies by name, headquarters and sector below, and use "Compare company responses" to filter policies by the following criteria:
Based on CHRB's assessment:
- Publicly available policy commitment not to tolerate nor contribute to attacks on HRDs: The company has a publicly available policy statement committing it to neither tolerate nor contribute to threats, intimidation and attacks (both physical and legal) against human rights defenders.
- Expects business relationships to commit to zero tolerance of attacks against HRDs: The company expects its business relationships (suppliers, etc.) to make this commitment.
- Policy commitment to work with HRDs to create enabling environments: The company commits to working with human rights defenders to create safe and enabling environments for civic engagement and human rights at local, national or international levels.
Additional criteria that does not meet CHRB requirements but demonstrates some progress:
- Mention of HRDs or non-retaliation against third party stakeholders: The company mentions human rights defenders, or non-retaliation against external stakeholders in policies, human rights reports, or other documents.
- Signed collective statement in support of HRDs: The company has signed a collective statement in support of human rights defenders.
Information in this section obtained through publicly available policies and/or statements. Implementation not of actions verified by HRDs or affected communities.
Investors, IFIs, industry associations & multi-stakeholder initiatives
InvestorsThe following investors and investor networks have signed at least one collective statement in support of HRDs:
International finance institutionsThe following international financial institutions (IFIs) and development finance institutions (DFIs) have made either policy commitments and/or statements in support of HRDs:
In July 2023, the Coalition for Human Rights in Development published “Misplaced Trust: Why development banks should not rely on their clients to address reprisal risks” finding that despite these policy commitments or statements, most banks are not taking sufficient action to prevent or address reprisals. The report finds that development banks are putting human rights defenders at serious risk by delegating to their clients the responsibility to prevent and respond to reprisals, even though clients are often those coordinating, instigating or perpetrating the attacks against defenders.
Industry associations & MSIsThe following industry associations and multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) have made either policy commitments and/or signed at least one collective statement in support of HRDs:
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