Now What? Three Success Factors for Translating the Corporate Responsibility to Respect into Practice

by Faris Natour, Leading Perspectives: A Trends and Solutions Publication from Business for Social Responsibility; Spring 2009.

Corporate responsibility for human rights is a hot topic. As part of the discussions over the last few years, UN Special Representative for Business and Human Rights, John Ruggie, facilitated the development of a conceptual framework: ‘Protect, Respect, and Remedy.’

It asserts that the state maintains its duty to protect citizens from corporate human rights abuses. The corporate responsibility is to respect all human rights. Finally, there is a need to provide access to effective remedy when human rights abuses do occur.

At its core, the framework for business leaders is akin to the standard in medicine: “First, do no harm.” This entails proactive due diligence such as creating a company-specific human rights policy and running impact assessments and performance reviews for the business and its supply chain.

The author of this article presents three factors to: “strengthen the uptake of the UN framework.” They are:

1) Focus on impact
2) Reevaluate corporate responsibility for positive rights
3) Encourage collaboration by all stakeholders.
While this may seem straightforward, Natour’s framework-speak may muddle a simple truth: this will be hard.

To achieve status as a norm requires a vanguard of businesses to seriously integrate corporate responsibility for human rights into standard operating procedures. These efforts must be valued and demanded by consumers. Only by rewarding companies that proactively engage in human rights will the market reinforce its value. For human rights to take hold in corporate culture, CEOs need to move beyond thinking about it as a process to be managed or a box to be ticked. Corporate responsibility for human rights could flourish if businesses incorporate human rights and other ethical norms into everyday decision-making.

Alternatively, the framework could simply languish in a clunky document destined for UN purgatory.

To read the article see: www.bsr.org

To learn more about how to integrate human rights into everyday business practices see the fact sheets prepared by The Australian Human Rights Commission:

humanrights.gov.au/human_rights/corporate_social_ responsibility/index.html

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