Policies & statements on Human Rights Defenders & civic freedoms by companies & investors

Since 2016, several companies, multi-stakeholder initiatives, industry associations, private investors, financial institutions and their accountability mechanisms have clarified their stances on human rights defenders (HRDs) and civic freedoms. It's important to note that corporate practice in this area often lags behind policy commitments.

List of statements and commitments on HRDs & civic freedoms (last updated in September 2019):

Name

Description

Sector

Type

Companies:

 

adidas

In 2016, adidas published first-ever stand-alone policy on HRDs

Apparel

Stand-alone policy

M&S

M&S Human Rights policy states that they “do not tolerate threats, intimidation, physical or legal attacks against human rights defenders, including those exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and protest against our global operations and our Global Sourcing Principles expect our suppliers to make the same public commitment

Retail

Mention in policy

Barrick Gold Corporation

In 2017, Barrick Gold Corporation amended its Human Rights Policy to say “we do not tolerate threats, intimidation, or attacks against human rights defenders

Mining

Mention in policy

Unilever

Unilever states in their policy that they ‘recognize there is increasing pressure and insecurity for human rights defenders, including trade unionists’ and “do not tolerate threats, intimidation, physical or legal attacks against human rights defenders in relation to our operations

Consumer goods

Mention in policy

Vattenfall

In 2017, Vattenfall conducted an impact assessment trip to Colombia to identify possible human rights risks related to their coal procurement. Following the visit, a report with concrete recommendations to the mining companies was published. Vattenfall was the first European energy utility to conduct such a risk analysis. In the resulting report, they state that “companies should set up, publicly communicate and implement a zero-tolerance policy regarding threats, intimidation and physical or legal attacks against human rights defenders, including those exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and protest against the business or its operations

Energy

Statement (report)

The Coca-Cola Company

Coca Cola's stated that it’s revised Human Rights policy, released in December 2017, recognizes the need for the company to engage with communities on human rights matters that are important to those communities and the people within them and that “those matters are often advanced or articulated by individuals or groups regarded as Human Rights Defenders (HRD)” – the statement says “We also reserve the right, either alone or in collaboration with others, to speak out where we feel the rights and freedoms of HRD’s with whom we engage are impinged upon by the State or its agents for the purpose of restoring the HRD’s ability to act in pursuit of its human rights interests

Food & Beverage

Statement

Unilever, adidas, Primark, ABN AMRO, Anglo American, Leber Jeweler, Domini, Investor Alliance for Human Rights

In December 2018, on the 20th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, a group of companies from different sectors made a statement that said “We recognize that defenders are important partners in identifying risks or problems in our business activities, encouraging due diligence and in the provision of remedy when harm occurs. When they are under attack, so are sustainable business practices

Various sectors

Statement

ISAGEN

ISAGEN publicly advocated for the protection of human rights defenders and social leaders in Colombia, saying “ISAGEN expresses its most energetic rejection of the acts of violence that have claimed the lives of numerous human rights defenders and social leaders” [Unofficial translation by the Resource Centre]

Hydropower

Statement

 

Multi-stakeholder initiatives & Industry Associations:

FIFA

In 2018, FIFA released the “FIFA Statement on Human Rights Defenders and Media Representatives” indicating that it should be read, interpreted and applied in accordance with FIFA’s responsibilities under the UNGPs and consistent with the spirit and intent of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. FIFA said it would require bidders and hosts of FIFA tournaments to uphold their commitment to respecting and helping to protect the rights of HRDs and media representatives, and has also launched a complaints mechanism for HRDs and journalists

Sport

Stand-alone policy & complaints mechanism

RSPO - Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

In 2018, RSPO, an organisation that unites stakeholders from the 7 sectors of the palm oil industry: oil palm producers, processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks/investors, and environmental and social non-governmental organizations (NGOs), adopted a new RSPO Policy on Human Rights Defenders, Whistleblowers, Complainants and Community Spokespersons

Palm oil

Stand-alone policy

International Council of Mining and Metals

In 2018, the International Council of Mining and Metals made a statement, saying that “space for civil society is critical for business [and] Human Rights Defenders must be protected”

Mining

Statement

 

Investors & financial institutions:

The International Finance Corporation (IFC)

Released a Position Statement on Retaliation Against Civil Society and Project Stakeholders

Finance & banking

Position statement

Investor Alliance for Human Rights (IAHR)

In response to calls made by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, in April 2018 the Investor Alliance for Human Rights released a first of its kind statement endorsed by 68 institutional investors, calling on companies to make commitments to protect human rights defenders, and specifically, take immediate action to ensure the protection and physical safety of indigenous rights defenders at risk in the Philippines

Finance & banking

Statement

FMO

The Dutch development bank FMO prominently mentioned defenders in their inaugural Human Rights progress report, stating: “The right to life is the ‘supreme’ right and the most basic human right of all. As we select our clients and look at the way they manage their business, we strive to respect the right to life [of]:… Human rights defenders – ensuring that the investments we make do not damage people or the environment, and that critics and opponents are not threatened or oppressed”, as well as “We are seeing a disturbing trend. Many countries suppress and oppress human rights defenders, environmental activists, forest rangers and journalists. As a result, we are increasing our pre-investment due diligence activities to look systematically at contextual risks, including risks to human rights defenders, in the countries and sectors we invest in.”

Finance & banking

Human Rights Progress Report

 

Independent accountability mechanisms of the financial institutions:

World Bank’s Inspection Panel

The Inspection panel developed reprisal guidelines

Finance & banking

Policy

CAO - the independent accountability mechanism for the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA)

The Office of the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) developed an approach to reprisals

Finance & banking

Policy

MICI - the independent accountability mechanism of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)

The Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism (MICI) released a Guide for independent accountability mechanisms on measures to address the risk of reprisals in complaint management

Finance & banking

Guide

This list will continue to be updated - please notify us at zbona (at) business-humanrights.org, if there is a statement or policy missing from it.