The fourth annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights opens today in Geneva. In the four years since the UN Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, companies are increasingly signaling their willingness to address human rights in their direct operations and supply chains. The forum is a key moment to reflect on the past year of private-sector activity around human rights, and to look ahead to future progress.
With this backdrop, BSR is proud to join nine other organizations that work with business in signing a statement in support of the Guiding Principles and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The new sustainable development agenda reaffirms the importance of human rights to global progress, both social and environmental, and underlines that the private sector has a key role to play in driving the SDGs. As the co-signed statement notes, “the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights [are] a powerful and critical companion to the SDGs.”
Many multinational companies have publicly committed to implementing the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; even more have taken significant steps over the last four years to implement them. In a 2014 Economist Intelligence Unit survey of 850 senior executives, 83 percent said that human rights are a matter for business and government to address, and 71 percent said corporate responsibility should go beyond compliance with local laws. And leading companies, such as Stora Enso and Nestlé, are now publishing reports detailing their approach to conducting human rights due diligence.
However, there is much more to be done. Companies have made great strides over the past four years in understanding their impacts on human rights, and governments are taking an active role in helping to shape the legislative agenda and provide guidance and clarity to companies. These efforts should be celebrated and applauded, and met with equal vigor in continuing to advance progress on business and human rights.
For these reasons, BSR has joined the UN Global Compact, IPIECA, the International Chamber of Commerce, the International Organisation of Employers, WBCSD, the International Council on Mining and Metals, the Global Business Initiatives on Human Rights, the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition, and USCIB to reaffirm our commitment to the Guiding Principles, and to promote their implementation among our networks.