New Toolbox on Business & Human Rights to help companies navigate their human rights duties

Author: IPIS Research (Belgium), Published on: 25 November 2019

"IPIS Briefing: Guiding companies on their Human Rights duties", 19 Nov 2019

Decades of voluntary corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives have failed to adequately protect human rights. Also the human rights framework, albeit with a more defined commitment in the area of human rights compared to CSR, has yet not been effective in preventing human rights abuses. NGOs across the world continue to report accounts of companies being linked to serious human rights abuses.

The ‘Toolbox on Business and Human Rights’, developed by IPIS and the University of Antwerp for the Belgian Federal Institute for Sustainable Development, provides an accessible and user-friendly set of tools to guide companies on their human rights duties. The toolbox explicitly refers to the character of the relevant regulations – that is, whether they are hard law (binding) or soft law (aiming to promote a specific behaviour but non-binding)...

To respond to these vital shortcomings of non-binding standards, there are simultaneous initiatives at both national and international level to introduce binding legislation to prevent, address and remedy human rights abuses committed in business operations. Across Europe and beyond, there is a growing trend towards introducing mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence at the national level...

At the UN, a treaty is being developed to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises in international human rights law...

The Toolbox on Business and Human Rights guides businesses through the numerous mechanisms, legislation and tools, informing the user how they can comply with their human rights duties. This guidance is desirable because the number of mechanisms can be overwhelming for a company. However, at the same time, the number of mandatory mechanisms is very limited...[T]he reliance on a voluntary approach to promote business respect for human rights has proven insufficient. Mandatory due diligence legislation is needed to adequately prevent violations of human rights and environmental damages...

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