Unilever releases 1st human rights report in line with UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework
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Author: Unilever, on Guardian (UK)
Advancing human rights across our business is the right thing to do. Safe working conditions, freedom of association, fair wages, prevention of forced labour, harassment and discrimination must be universal. Sadly, at the moment, they are not. There is clearly a moral obligation to act, and a business case to do so...Transparency is critical to engage everyone in bringing solutions to complex issues. That’s why we agreed to pilot the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework... [t]he report focuses on eight key salient issues in depth...: discrimination, fair wages, forced labour, freedom of association, harassment, health and safety, land rights and working hours...It is...clear that addressing human rights is everybody’s business. It cannot be limited to a function or a department but to every single individual within the company...We have a long way to go and we cannot do this alone. Only when business achieves a critical mass of consensus and is working together to promote human rights, will the lives of people around the world improve.
Commentary: "How elephants can dance: Unilever’s human rights report sets a new benchmark for business"
Author: John Morrison, Institute for Human Rights and Business
Given the EU’s recent non-financial reporting requirement concerning its 6,000 largest publicly listed companies, which certainly includes Unilever, today’s report will inevitably be seen as a benchmark. This requirement, as well as others wordwide, will help ensure that human rights reporting is now here to stay...What makes Unilever’s report so special? A number of aspects are of particular importance in my view:
First, the report makes explicit the process the company went through to decide which were its most salient human rights impacts – not just from the perspective of the company but from the perspective of those who may be impacted by its activities...Second, some of these impacts are well outside of the company’s direct control and address more systemic issues...Third, I am especially pleased to see the issue of workplace harassment being given particular prominence in the report and in particular the section dedicated to Kericho in Kenya...Finally, it perhaps goes without saying, but in Paul Polman – Unilever actually has a CEO who understands the value of human rights to his company...
Author: John G. Ruggie, Harvard Univ., former UN Special Representative on business & human rights
The issue of business and human rights is not new...What’s new is that the most recent wave of globalisation has created a massive gap between the scope and impact of economic factors and actors, and the ability of societies to deal with the consequences. Enlightened corporate leadership has come to recognise that caring for people and planet, in addition to being the moral imperative of our time, must become a core business mission in order to secure the sustainability of open markets and the corporate forms that constitute the very basis of globalisation...I am gratified by how far we have come in a relatively short period of time. Looking at the challenges we still face, I am also humbled by how much more needs to be done – and by the fact that time is of the essence. The broader business community must follow the path charted by Unilever and other leading companies and act upon our collective responsibility to make globalisation work for all – because if it doesn’t, in the end it will work for none.
This is Unilever’s inaugural report on human rights. It is also the first report to use the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework comprehensively...To help elevate the authenticity of our work in respecting human rights and to engage the communities we serve, in April 2014 we committed to report on our implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights – publicly disclosing our efforts and challenges.This report represents our commitment to document the foundational steps we have taken. Our objectives in sharing this report are: to highlight our efforts in embedding the respect and promotion of human rights into the fabric of our business; to outline the salient issues we face; to report on our progress publicly and share our challenges candidly; to outline our priorities for the future; and to seek feedback and guidance from our stakeholders. We share these in the spirit of continuous improvement, in the knowledge that the remaining challenges are considerable and in the hope that other businesses may benefit from the lessons we’ve learned so far.
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"Unilever releases first-of-its-kind Human Rights Report, 30 Jun 2015
The report outlines Unilever’s goal not only to respect Human Rights but to actively advance them across all areas of its business. It documents areas where the company has taken significant steps forward, and assesses some of the challenges ahead...[Paul Polman, Unilever CEO said:] “As we look ahead to the agreement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in September and to the prospect of a global climate agreement in Paris at the end of the year, it is a fitting time to open an honest discussion about human rights...The effects of climate change threaten us all, with expected impacts hitting the poorest people and communities the hardest. They are often also those most at risk from negative human rights impacts. It is no longer enough for business to merely respect human rights. Our role must be far more active to ensure we succeed in our commitment.”...Unilever became the first company to adopt the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework; the world’s first comprehensive guidance for businesses to report on how they are implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights...
The report highlights key areas of progress, including Unilever’s work to empower women, its progress in the fight against sexual harassment, and addressing health and safety issues across the supply chain. It also describes key areas of focus for the future, which include addressing human rights issues beyond first-tier suppliers, working conditions for migrant labour, and continuing to collaborate with other organisations in order to influence systemic change. Looking ahead, Unilever is committed to building frameworks for improved data collection, verification and analysis, which will feed into the company’s future reports.