Business should always avoid adverse human rights impacts.
During a crisis business has a heightened responsibility to respect human rights. It’s time to progress both a business and human rights agenda. This was the clear message at the United Nations Global Compact Network Australian Dialogue on Business and Human Rights I attended on the 25th August.
Change is afoot, but too slowly. While governments have a responsibility to protect human rights, business has a responsibility to respect human rights, and people whose human rights are violated, for example, in the course of business activities have a right to remedy.
In 2008, the United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework for Business and Human Rights provided a conceptual and policy framework to anchor the business and human rights debate. Following this, the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) provided the first global standard for preventing and addressing adverse impacts on human rights. These principles continue to be internationally accepted as providing a roadmap for businesses.
The Covid-19 crisis has refocussed attention on supply chains, their fragility, and risks to decent work. But there is a bigger story, more than Modern Slavery, which is just a part of the business and human rights dialogue. Now more than ever businesses need to ramp up risk-based due diligence – to identify, avoid and address impacts associated with business supply chains and relationships. Now more than ever business need meaningful stakeholder engagement to promote responsible business conduct and hold those in power to account.