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B-Tech foundational paper | Key characteristics of business respect for human rights

Business respect for human rights is about preventing or remedying harms to people that are connected to business activities, with particular attention paid to those people who may be most seriously impacted. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) set out a principled approach for all companies to achieve this. This includes anticipating and mitigating harms that might occur related to their products and services.

Taking pro-active steps to prevent the use of technology products or services that result in adverse human rights impacts is both the right thing to do and a route to ensuring that 21st century technological advancements deliver value to all parts of society. And acting with human rights due diligence – as outlined by the UNGPs – should not be seen as a simplistic compliance exercise. On the contrary, companies that take their commitment to respect human rights seriously will need to improve product design, pursue new research avenues, revisit business models and collaborate with peers, governments and civil society.

Meeting the global standard of conduct outlined in the UNGPs is increasingly important for technology companies and entrepreneurs for a number of reasons including: sustaining user trust and the companyʼs social license to operate; improving the design of products; avoiding reputation and legal risks; and being an attractive place to work for current and future generations of talented researchers, data scientists and engineers.

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