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Responding department: Citizenship and Public Affairs (also with input from Legal and Corporate Affairs)

Stock exchange symbol: (MSFT:US)

Note - also available: Microsoft response to our Myanmar Foreign Investment Tracking Project

Does your company have a publicly available commitment to respect human rights?

Microsoft has a stand-alone Global Human Rights Statement ([link]).

Human rights are also incorporated into policies including: our Supplier Code of Conduct: [link] and our Standards of Business Conduct: [link].

Update 2016: Updated Human Rights Policy

How are human rights governed in your company?

Microsoft’s commitment to human rights is embedded in our mission of helping people and businesses realize their full potential and our Global Human Rights Statement enumerates the ways human rights are relevant across our business. The lead responsibility for human rights issues across Microsoft rests with Microsoft’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel, who sits on CEO Satya Nadella’s Senior Leadership Team. The General Counsel and his leadership team addresses the broad range of legal and policy issues associated with relevant human rights risks and opportunities at Microsoft, including privacy and data security, freedom of expression, and accessibility and additional corporate citizenship commitments.

The Regulatory and Public Policy Committee of our Board of Directors assists the board in overseeing the company’s policies and programs that relate to a number of legal and public issues, including human rights. The committee’s charter specifically calls for the committee to “review and provide guidance to the board and management about the company’s policies and programs that relate to corporate citizenship, including human rights, environmental sustainability, corporate social responsibility, supply chain management, charitable giving, and political activities and expenditures.”

In addition, Microsoft’s Citizenship and Public Affairs team sits within our Legal and Corporate Affairs Group and drives initiatives and engages with groups across Microsoft to help the company fulfill its responsibilities as a global corporate citizen and deliver added value to the company and its stakeholders. This team of 30+ professionals develops our global citizenship strategies and works in partnership with local Microsoft citizenship and corporate affairs professionals around the world to advance our citizenship commitments wherever we do business.

The General Manager of Citizenship and Public Affairs reports directly to Microsoft’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel, who sits on CEO Satya Nadella’s Senior Leadership Team. More broadly, citizenship at Microsoft relies on the combined efforts of all our employees, including colleagues in dozens of other leadership roles, business and operational groups, and global subsidiaries. Together, they help identify emerging issues and societal challenges where Microsoft can add the greatest value, develop and implement new strategies and programs, and monitor our progress.

How are human rights managed within your company?

We work to ensure that we respect human rights across all aspects of our business and we seek to apply the power of technology to promote human rights globally. Since endorsing the UN Global Compact in 2006, Microsoft has had a formal commitment to respecting all of the human rights enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Across our business we have a wide range of policies, practices, and programs that relate to human rights, including data privacy and security, free expression, labor rights in our workforce and our supply chain, and equality and diversity.

Building on these fundamental commitments, Microsoft was among the first companies to align our human rights work with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights released in 2011. Microsoft’s Global Human Rights Statement articulates our human rights commitments in line with the framework of the Guiding Principles, including issues related to governance, due diligence, and remediation. In 2013, we launched the Microsoft Technology and Human Rights Center to prioritize and coordinate human rights due diligence, identify emerging risks and opportunities related to human rights, and promote harmonized approaches to human rights across Microsoft. The Center also works to foster dialogue to advance understanding of the human rights impacts of information and communications technology (ICT).

In 2014 we incorporated our human rights commitments into our Standards of Business Conduct, which all employees receive and must complete annually. Our human rights commitments are also covered in a range of role-specific trainings tailored to particular business functions. As part of our human rights commitments, Microsoft has independent experts in business and human rights conduct Human Rights Impact Assessments (HRIAs) of specific parts of our business. The HRIAs include independent research, internal interviews, and engagement with external stakeholders to identify relevant human rights risks and opportunities for specific Microsoft products, services, business relationships, and markets. More information about our management of human rights is available each year in the annual Microsoft Citizenship Report ([link]).

What is the company’s approach to the engagement of stakeholders (including workers, and local communities impacted by the company’s activities), on human rights issues?

We regularly communicate with thousands of stakeholders globally ranging from parents concerned about their child’s online safety to international human rights experts. These engagements take many forms. Employees from our business and operational groups regularly identify and engage with stakeholders in the course of their daily work activities. Our Citizenship and Public Affairs team also manages a number of stakeholder relationships and ongoing dialogues to help inform and guide our strategies. We connect with leading thinkers on corporate responsibility and societal challenges in groups such as Business for Social Responsibility, the Clinton Global Initiative, and the World Economic Forum. We learn from them and other advocacy groups, socially responsible investors, corporate responsibility rating agencies, other external stakeholders, and our own employees to identify new and emerging citizenship issues.

We also base our work on international frameworks such as the United Nations Global Compact, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the Global Reporting Initiatives’ Sustainability Reporting Guidelines.

Also, as noted previously, the Microsoft Technology and Human Rights Center works to foster dialogue to advance understanding of the human rights impacts of information and communications technology (ICT). Through the Center, Microsoft engages with a broad range of human rights groups, academics, and industry groups globally to share Microsoft’s experiences and lessons learned. Among its activities in FY14, the Center has:

  • Hosted a series of roundtables in Brussels, Berlin, San Francisco and Singapore with human rights defenders, policy makers, academics, and other experts and groups to help us better understand how ICT companies can engage most effectively and responsibly with stakeholders on human rights and identify the rights holders directly impacted by ICT companies.
  • Held an “app generator” workshop to learn from human rights defenders about the technology applications and tools they need to help them meet their responsibilities to those at risk for human rights abuse.
  • Convened a range of events including roundtables at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos on LGBT equality and on government surveillance and meetings with institutional investors and corporate lawyers to raise awareness and understanding of the UN Guiding Principles.

Priority human rights issues: What are some of the priority human rights issues for your company?

  • Health (including environmental health, workplace health & safety)
  • Workplace  diversity / non-discrimination
  • Forced labour and human trafficking (including in supply chains)
  • Sexual harassment
  • Freedom of expression & privacy
  • Conflict minerals
  • Women
  • Children (including child labour) 

Actions on freedom of expression and privacy

As an example of a particularly long-standing and productive human rights-focused stakeholder partnership, Microsoft is a founding member and sits on the board of the Global Network Initiative (GNI). GNI is a collaborative effort between ICT companies, human rights groups, socially responsible investors, and others. GNI provides a set of Principles and Implementation Guidelines regarding practical steps and policies ICT companies can adopt to respect and advance the freedom of expression and privacy rights of their users when faced with governmental demands.

How are human rights commitments and information about how the company addresses its human rights impacts communicated, internally and externally?

We communicate our progress meeting our human rights commitment in our annual Microsoft Citizenship Report and through public forums, and engagements with human rights experts, academics, and other stakeholders. In addition, since early 2013, Microsoft has published a Law Enforcement Requests Report twice yearly detailing the legal demands for customer data we receive from law enforcement agencies around the world. In early 2014, following a lawsuit against the U.S. government, Microsoft and other tech companies secured permission to publish some additional information about governmental demands for customer data through legal orders issued pursuant to U.S. national security laws, such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). We immediately published our first report and announced plans to publish it twice yearly, as we do the Law Enforcement Requests Report.

What provisions does your company have in place to ensure that grievances from workers and affected communities or individuals are heard, and can you provide examples of remedies provided?

Microsoft’s grievance procedures are outlined in our Global Human Rights Statement and Microsoft Citizenship Report. Additional escalation methods and information can be found at www.microsoftintegrity.com.

Which external and collaborative human rights initiatives does your company participate in, and what is the nature of your involvement?

Microsoft has helped establish groups that help set the standard for responsible business practices in the ICT industry ranging from the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition and Global Network Initiative to the International Association of Accessibility Professionals. We are also a signatory to the UN Global Compact.

Which are the key one, two or three elements of your approach to human rights that been developed or amended since June 2011? Please indicate if these actions were in response to the UN Guiding Principles.

As noted above, Microsoft was among the first companies to align our human rights work with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights released in 2011. In response to those principles, we released Microsoft’s Global Human Rights Statement articulates our human rights commitments in line with the framework of the Guiding Principles, including issues related to governance, due diligence, and remediation.

What are some of the obstacles and challenges that your company encounters in implementing its human rights commitments?

A particular challenge we’ve identified is how can technology companies like Microsoft that have hundreds of millions or even billions of users realistically identify and engage with all of our rights holders (which is a part of Principle 18 of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights). To help address this challenge, we commissioned Business for Social Responsibility to develop a working paper to answer this question. The paper was informed by a global series of expert roundtables convened by Microsoft’s Technology and Human Rights Center and by input from the Center for Democracy and Technology.