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16 Dec 2020

Global Compact Network Germany & German Institute for Human Rights

Paper explores why & how human rights due diligence needs to be integral part of principles-based approach to the SDGs by businesses

Dec 2020

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development lays out a bold and comprehensive “plan for people, planet and prosperity” that promises to “leave no one behind.” ...

Many businesses recognize the role they play in advancing the SDGs. Yet, they are unsure how their efforts to respect human rights through robust due diligence processes, as laid out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, complement their contributions to the SDGs. This Discussion Paper explores the question of why and how human rights due diligence needs to be an integral part of a principles-based approach to the SDGs by businesses...

The Discussion Paper is divided into three sections:

  1. The Introduction provides conceptual foundations by posing three questions: What is a principles-based approach to the SDGs? Why is the contribution of businesses to the SDGs important and why are the SDGs important for businesses? Why is it important now?
  2. The next section explores key considerations for a principles-based approach to the SDGs. It begins by elaborating the complementary nature of human rights due diligence and sustainability approaches and demonstrates how a human rights-based approach enables businesses to benefit the SDGs as well as benefit from the SDGs. The business case for an integrated approach is contextualized by situating business operations in larger environmental, social, and governance systems. Also, the section sheds light on what attainment of the SDGs implies for current ways of doing business and asks what tensions and challenges may come with a principles-based approach to sustainability. It closes by taking stock: What has the business community learned since the publication of the UN Guiding Principles in 2011 and the SDGs in 2015? What has worked and what challenges remain? What is the road ahead to fulfill the 2030 Agenda?
  3. The final section touches on some practical steps companies may consider to ensure their core business practices align with sustainability goals. A two-level framework for an integrated approach – on one hand minimizing human rights risks to the benefit of the SDGs and on the other hand innovating and investing to contribute to the SDGs while minimizing risks – is introduced. Useful tools and resources are highlighted throughout.