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UN Forum Series Blog: Think before you measure!

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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