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Article

16 Jun 2021

Author:
Shift

Statement on the 10th Anniversary of the UN Guiding Principles

The 10th anniversary of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights – the global standard on the business responsibility to respect human rights unanimously endorsed by the United Nations Human Rights Council on 16 June 2011 – is a milestone for everyone working to achieve a world in which business gets done with respect for people’s dignity.

At Shift, we are reflecting on a decade of engagement with the UN Guiding Principles by governments, companies and civil society; the progress made translating the spirit and purpose of the UN Guiding Principles into practice; and the important work ahead of us. Below, we highlight some of our thinking  and priorities, and link to commentary by our expert team working to challenge assumptions, push boundaries and redefine practice by business enterprises, standard-setters and financial institutions.

  • The UN Guiding Principles HAVE CHANGED THE DEBATE. Before 2011, the very idea that companies had human rights responsibilities was widely contested by companies and many governments, the concepts of human rights and due diligence had no relationship, and companies’ risk management systems were focused solely on risks to their own success.
  • The UN Guiding Principles continue to be “QUIETLY RADICAL.” The power of the UN Guiding Principles is often underestimated: promoting and supporting human rights are both integral elements of the responsibility to respect, the use of leverage to mitigate risks linked to the business is a creative and innovative enterprise, and the most reliable pathway to transformative positive impact on people’s lives lies precisely through tackling the greatest risks faced by people affected by business activities.
  • To achieve business respect for human rights at scale, we need to embed the UN Guiding Principles IN THE RULES THAT SHAPE MARKETS. Emerging regulation of corporate human rights due diligence and reporting should be designed to create incentives for genuine progress and provide for effective enforcement; to drive accountability into boardrooms, executive leadership and corporate cultures; and to support a deeper understanding of how different businesses can play their role in an effective remedy ecosystem for human rights harms.

Shift is committed to continuing its mission-driven work alongside allies and partners in the decade to come and help build a world where business gets done with respect to people’s rights.

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