Introduction

The UN Human Rights Council endorsed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) 10 years ago. Since then, the UNGPs have been used by a growing number of global companies, integrated into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and referred to by governments, investors, and civil society organizations everywhere.

At BSR, we have learned a great deal by helping companies implement the UNGPs in practice. Our methods have evolved with each company engagement, and we have been struck by how often referring to the precise text of the UNGPs helps identify how we may improve our approaches for the next project. Ten years later, we are still learning, and that is a testament to the richness of the UNGPs.

The three UNGP pillars of “state duty to protect,” “corporate responsibility to respect,” and “access to remedy” have provided much-needed clarity for our work with companies, providing clear direction for company action to address adverse human rights impacts.

However, we believe that a step change in the interpretation of these three pillars is needed to more effectively prevent human rights violations associated with business activities and secure the wider enjoyment of human rights.

Specifically, we believe that the business and human rights field will benefit from a framework for the enjoyment, realization, and fulfillment of human rights—a shared opportunity to promote human rights—that moves beyond a perception that the UNGPs’ three pillars are solely about avoiding harm.

Based on the premise that the absence of action to promote human rights presents very severe risks to their fulfillment, this paper draws upon BSR experience over the past decade to propose a framework for the shared promotion of human rights.

We view the promotion of human rights to be a key part of fulfilling the corporate responsibility to respect human rights.