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The Responsibility of Financial Institutions under the UN Guiding Principles

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Financial Institutions (FIs) – from pension funds, to asset owners and managers, private and commercial banks – have systemic influence in driving better outcomes for people and planet in global supply chains.

FIs have a responsibility to respect human rights by knowing and addressing the risks to people and the environment associated with their products, services, clients and investment activities. This is enshrined in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), which require all businesses – including FIs – to carry out meaningful and ongoing due diligence that includes consulting with (potentially) affected rightsholders, and provide or cooperate in remedy for adverse impacts where appropriate.

In addition, financial actors and the rise in Environmental Social Governance (ESG) investing are receiving increased attention as a significant leverage point for advancing corporate respect for human rights. For example, the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights in its UNGPs 10+ Roadmap, released in 2021, placed a particular emphasis on the crucial role of the financial sector in scaling up implementation of the UNGPs.

FIs are also facing increasing attention from governments, with regulation gaining momentum, particularly in Europe with the EU proposal for a Directive on corporate sustainability due diligence, which seeks to formalise the responsibility to respect human rights and turn it into a legal duty for businesses, including financial actors, as well as the EU Action Plan on Financing Sustainable Growth.

This portal collects guidance and other documents outlining the human rights responsibilities of different financial institutions, as well as statements, reports and other useful resources to catalyse action on human rights.

Essential Guidance

UN Guidance on applying the UNGPs to the finance sector

Since their adoption in 2011, the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights has been working to shine a light on the responsibilities of financial actors under the UNGPs, and has prioritised research and consultation in the areas of development finance and institutional investment within the context of the UNGPs 10+ project.

OECD Guidance for the financial sector


In order to promote the effective observance of the Guidelines, the OECD has developed sectoral guidance for the financial sector. This includes key considerations for institutional investors, as well as banks and other financial institutions in the context of their corporate lending and underwriting activities. 

Further guidance & tools

Find here select guidance and tools for FIs on respecting human rights.

Investor Toolkit on Human Rights

The Investor Alliance for Human Rights (IAHR) published this toolkit for asset owners and managers to address risks to people posed by their investments. The toolkit explains that investors have a responsibility to respect human rights as outlined in the UNGPs and provides practical guidance for investors regarding how to apply the UNGPs in their work.

Why and How Investors Should Act on Human Rights

Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) draws up a framework targeted at institutional investors and provides guidance in embedding respect for human rights in their activities.

Human Rights Roadmap for Transforming Finance

Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) provides an overview of key areas where the financial sector must make progress, and builds on the call to action outlined in the UNGPs 10+ Roadmap by providing recommendations on how financial institutions can do more to drive respect for human rights.

BankTrack 2022 Global Human Rights Benchmark

The benchmark provides key human rights performance data and analysis for 50 of the world’s largest commercial banks.

Investor statements

Find here select statements by investors calling for improved human rights performance by companies and stronger regulatory requirements, among others.

Investors with US$5.8 trillion in assets urge companies scoring zero on due diligence in 2020 CHRB to act on results

In May 2021, a group of 208 global investors organised by the Investor Alliance for Human Rights sent a statement to 106 companies that have scored zero on all the human rights due diligence indicators in the 2020 Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) report calling for improvement.

94 investors with US$6T in assets voice support for mHREDD in the EU

In October 2021, a group of 94 investors with US$6T in assets under management expressed support for robust mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence (mHREDD) legislation in the EU, calling for all companies regardless of size and sector to be covered in scope in line with international frameworks, and including accountability mechanisms such as civil liability.

43 investors & companies issue statement on stakeholder engagement as a crucial aspect of EU mandatory due diligence law

In November 2021, companies and investors including ACTIAM, Aviva Investors, and Boston Common Asset Management called for meaningful engagement with rightsholders and civil society to be prioritised in EU legislation on mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence.