UN human rights reporting

Social media has augmented our view of the world. Due to increased awareness and stakeholder expectations, there is a realisation that good business sense includes respecting people’s fundamental dignity and welfare.

This practical guidance paper examines the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), how organisations are required to be accountable and transparent about their commitment to them and the reporting framework that enables this.

“The UNGP Reporting Framework equips us to understand what we may face – it reduces the number of unknown unknowns.” Richard Kooloos, Head of Sustainable Banking, ABN AMRO; an early adopter of the UNGP Reporting Framework.

The principles

The UNGPs are a set of guidelines for countries and organisations to prevent, address and remedy human rights abuses committed in business operations. They were endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011.

There are three pillars; state duty, corporate responsibility and remedy. This short video provides an overview.

  • state duty - pass and enforce laws to prevent human rights violations
  • corporate responsibility - refrain from violating human rights across all aspects of operations, regardless of geography or absence of local laws
  • remedy - victims access to redress through government or corporate mechanisms

Corporate philanthropy such as building a school or having a charity partner cannot be used to offset abuse of rights within the supply chain; the principles are not about the net effect but the absolute effect.

Louise Nicholls, Corporate Head of Human Rights, Food sustainability (Plan A) and Food packaging at Marks and Spencer, makes clear as part of an insightful interview what the UNGPs are all about “when we think about people, whether they’re in our own operations or they are partners, third parties, or in our supply chain, we need to have one overarching approach to thinking about…

"Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way."

- Martin Luther King