With the support of the International Chamber of Commerce, the International Organization of Employers and other business organizations, the Economist Intelligence Unit published a report on the intersection of global business and the protection of human rights. “The Road from Principles to Practice: Today’s Challenges for Business in Respecting Human Rights” evaluates the state of play in business and human rights since the adoption of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in 2011.
The report shows that 83 percent of executives surveyed from a wide variety of sectors believe that human rights are a matter for businesses, not just for governments. 71 percent also said that their company’s responsibility to respect human rights goes beyond “obedience to local laws.”
While this response suggests corporate attitudes are evolving quickly, only 22 percent say they have a publicly available human rights policy in some form, and 44 percent say that human rights are an issue on which CEOs take the lead. The most common barriers to progress, according to the respondents, are lack of understanding of their company’s responsibilities and lack of training and education for employees.
The report also shows that companies do not see a business case – focused on immediate costs and benefits – for human rights, but rather see respecting human rights as helpful in building good relationships with local communities, protecting the company brand and reputation, and serving ethical considerations.
The study also draws on in-depth interviews conducted with Ed Potter, director of global workplace rights at The Coca-Cola Company and chair of USCIB’s Labor and Employment Committee; John Ruggie, former UN Secretary-General’s special representative on business and human rights; Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom and other experts from civil society, human rights and business organizations.