BSR worked with Phoenix Group to provide a clearer understanding of its impacts on human rights, publish its first human rights policy, and develop a roadmap to deliver an approach to respecting human rights.
Background on the Phoenix Group
Phoenix Group is the UK’s largest long-term savings and retirement business, serving 12 million customers with a broad range of pensions, savings, and life insurance products across its consumer brands.
Phoenix’s work in supporting people during their journey to and through retirement relies on making responsible, sustainable investment decisions and driving positive change for customers, colleagues, and Phoenix’s wider community of stakeholders, including rightsholders that may be affected by Phoenix’s business activities.
In striving to be sustainability leaders, Phoenix’s strategy focuses on key issues impacting the planet, including by transitioning the business to net zero and nature positive, and people, by helping society live better, longer lives; tackling the pension savings gap; and supporting more people to have better financial futures.
The Opportunity to Act on Human Rights
Financial services companies like Phoenix invest across a wide range of asset classes, sectors, and geographies. This global and multi-sector reach means that it’s important to have a clear view on the impacts of its products, services, and business relationships on people. As a large asset owner, Phoenix is also at the top of the investment ecosystem and has an opportunity to drive change through the full investment value chain and lifecycle.
Given that Phoenix was at a relatively early stage in its human rights journey, the group identified an opportunity to enhance its efforts on human rights. In working with BSR, Phoenix looked to leverage a combination of human rights and financial services expertise to challenge conventional thinking in the sector on human rights and gain a clearer understanding of its risk and opportunity profile against current and emerging expectations. Phoenix sought to use this as a foundation to build a strategic approach to embed human rights across the organization, including through the publication of its first human rights policy, which sets out its ambition and commitments.
BSR worked closely with Phoenix for nine months, bringing deep human rights and financial services expertise to develop a strategic vision for Phoenix to align with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and advance respect for human rights across its operations and value chain. This vision was informed by a global industry benchmark that assessed Phoenix and several peer institutions against the UNGPs and a landscape analysis of current drivers on human rights within financial services. BSR also conducted an in-depth assessment of Phoenix’s current practices and a saliency scan of its human rights issues. Through this process, BSR interviewed and engaged with numerous internal and external stakeholders on human rights issues associated with Phoenix’s operations and value chain and developed fit-for-purpose workshops at the highest levels of the business to raise awareness and build capacity around human rights.
BSR’s tailored approach led to a new human rights policy and a tailored roadmap with recommendations and timelines for implementation across Phoenix’s roles as an employer, procurer, investor, and customer service provider. The roadmap provides concrete steps for Phoenix to align more holistically and comprehensively with the UNGPs and meet growing regulatory and stakeholder expectations today and in the future.
Following completion of the project, Phoenix published its first human rights policy, raising the bar for other organizations in the financial sector. With BSR’s support, Phoenix has increased its capacity within the organization, both at operational and senior leadership levels, to understand its role in respecting human rights. This was achieved through collaboration with a range of stakeholders within the organization—from colleagues working in sustainable investment and risk to the legal, public policy, and data protection teams.
BSR’s support included the delivery of 11 education sessions and workshops for various Phoenix team members, executives, and board members. In addition, the project provided Phoenix with a roadmap of the activities needed to deliver a holistic approach to human rights across its roles as an employer, procurer, investor, and customer service provider.
“We are delighted by the progress we’ve made in advancing our work on human rights within Phoenix. The support provided by BSR has been invaluable and has set Phoenix up for success to deliver real change on this vital issue.”
James Wilde, Chief Sustainability Officer, Phoenix
Against a backdrop of increasing stakeholder expectations and rapidly emerging regulations, such as the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation, Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, and proposals to strengthen the UK Modern Slavery Act, it is increasingly important for financial services companies to understand and address their human rights risks and impacts. Organizations like Phoenix that have taken critical steps on their human rights journey will be better prepared to navigate this shifting landscape—with the tools in place to manage risks and identify opportunities while putting people at the center of the business. While advancing respect for human rights does not happen overnight, BSR believes that these steps lay the foundation for progress, leadership, and innovation on best practices in the financial services sector, and ultimately advance and scale respect for human rights across the economy.
This case study was written by Kindra Mohr. If your team is also interested in human rights support—from policy development to a step-by-step human rights roadmap—please reach out to us to learn more.