The WBCSD is kicking off what will be a busy 2015, most notably through our engagement in the Road to Paris and the work toward catalyzing business action on the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals.
With my first post of the New Year, I wanted to take the opportunity to share a recent piece of work produced by our Social Impact Cluster, focused on human rights.
Over the course of last year’s summer months, the WBCSD conducted a survey of its member companies in view of clarifying the current status and ambitions in this area. Some 85 member companies from two dozen industry sectors responded, resulting in the following noteworthy figures: 90% of respondents believe that an organization’s business strategy should explicitly include respect of human rights; and 75% of respondents think that the management of human rights issues will become more important to their company in the next two years.
This outcome further reinforced the WBCSD’s decision to position human rights as one of the priority areas of the Action2020 platform. At the same time, we are aware that despite extensive guidance material, companies, and those responsible for human rights issues within those companies, face a number of barriers to operationalizing respect for human rights across their businesses (as laid out in the UN Guiding Principles, adopted in 2011). These range from understanding the relevance of human rights for business to demonstrating the internal leadership and commitment necessary within the organization and translating that commitment into policies and practices in the company’s daily operations – amidst a diverse set of competing, and sometimes overlapping, business priorities being addressed throughout global business models and value chains.
At the WBCSD, we focus on catalyzing action and scaling up business solutions to meet sustainability challenges. In 2014, we therefore worked on not only capturing some of the most common barriers identified by the WBCSD member companies, but most importantly, on distilling the solutions they have used to overcome those barriers and drive adoption of the Guiding Principles across their operations.
The output of this extensive work is an issue brief entitled Scaling up Action on Human Rights: Operationalizing the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights. Published at the end of 2014, it lays out 15 sets of solutions, clustered around 5 sets of barriers. The brief builds on the hands-on experiences of several WBCSD member companies, including: ABB, Anglo American, ArcelorMittal, Coca-Cola, DSM, Eni, HEINEKEN, Hitachi, Holcim, JPMorgan Chase, Michelin, Nestlé, Novartis, RWE, Total, Unilever, and Vale.
To be clear, the brief does not provide a roadmap for ‘compliance’ with the Guiding Principles– but rather, a set of ideas and practical strategies for advancing efforts to meet the corporate responsibility to respect human rights. While some of the examples featured are success stories, the majority are ongoing efforts.
Looking ahead, the WBCSD will continue to enable “learning by sharing” by featuring both good practices and challenges. We will articulate how companies can put the Guiding Principles into practice by outlining the actions that can be taken to prevent, mitigate and address human rights impacts in the most effective manner. Together with our partners, we will continue advocating a progressive business perspective with a view to create the conditions where more sustainable companies, including in terms of how they embed respect for human rights across their operations, will succeed and be recognized.
I encourage you to click through this slide show featured below for highlights of the issue brief, and look forward to sharing further updates on our work programs in the course of 2015.