How to set human rights governance objectives for your organisation

March 30, 2022

Source: Pexels/Min An

Human rights are universal and comprise of freedoms for everyone based on fairness, dignity, respect and equality. Companies affect human rights through their activities and business relationships. 

Most organisations are aware that they must conduct their business in a way that recognises and respects human rights to support the dignity of their employees.This guide outlines what your company can do to set human rights governance objectives that meet the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. 

Guiding principles in human rights governance

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights are the global standard and outline the role of businesses and governments in respecting human rights. The principles stipulate that: 

  • States and companies must ensure effective judicial and non-judicial remedies for people whose human rights have been abused.
  • Companies must respect human rights, not infringe on the rights of others, and address any human rights infringements that affect them.
  • States must protect people against human rights abuses by third parties like businesses through regulation, policies, or adjudication.

There is no universal standard for embedding human rights in a company's organisational culture or operations. However, there is a general consensus that human rights governance objectives should touch on the following areas:

Governance and management

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has the most impact when a company's governance and management processes integrate CSR principles. CSR governance starts with the top management and board of directors. One of the crucial steps to take is to design and implement high-level governance arrangements publicly endorsed by the senior management team.

Operations

When attempting to organise and manage a cross-functional initiative, it's crucial to ensure each function and department understands the importance of undertaking human rights due diligence.

It’s also important to understand how due diligence impacts your employees’ day-to-day activities and how senior management assesses their performance. Each function and department should have salient human rights based on specific activities.

Strategy

After assessing your company's human rights impacts and prioritising a unique set of salient human rights actions and issues, focus your attention on: 

  • Developing a human rights strategy that provides support among the senior management, directors, and employees
  • Preparing a matrix of proposed actions and ideas for proceeding
  • Deciding on the approach, focus areas, and boundaries

The strategy should incorporate a mission statement, policies and procedures, goals and commitments, a clear allocation of responsibilities, and key performance indicators.

Commitments

Your organisation should align its human rights governance objectives to:

  • Employee and contractor health and safety
  • Transparency and lack of unethical persuasion
  • Ethical procurement and human rights in the supply chain
  • Compliance with regulatory and legal requirements
  • Resource use and waste management
  • Employee development
  • Maximisation of new technology

Performance targets

Your organisation should define the target level for its performance concerning each of its commitments. The priority should be on effectively managing material risks and meeting stakeholder expectations.

Processes and procedures

Companies must establish procedures that support the implementation of human rights strategies. These should span the full scope of the business functions and activities. Organizations must also implement processes to identify human rights-related risks and opportunities in the context of cultural, political, social, and economic conditions.

Implementing human rights governance objectives?

The business case for human rights can vary from one business sector to another country of operation. However, it improves employee recruitment, retention, motivation, stakeholder relations and risk assessment.

The UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework is an excellent basis for companies to report and manage their salient human rights issues.

For inspiration on how to improve your human rights governance strategy, read our ESG report and learn how we manage our governance policies at Airswift.

Download the ESG report

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This post was written by: James Allen, Chief Operations Director & SVP EMEA-CIS at Airswift