Step One: Ensure the company embeds the responsibility to respect human rights into its culture, knowledge and practices

Advice and Guidance

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Ensure the company embeds the responsibility to respect human rights into its culture, knowledge and practices

Ensuring the company has a public commitment to respect human rights is the foundation for a culture that makes human rights a consistent part of how it does business, works with partners, manages risks and reports on activities.

The board and senior management should provide a consistent narrative and messages about the significance of respect for human rights to the success of the company.

As part of the board’s overall responsibility for determining the nature and extent of the company’s principal risks, the board should satisfy itself that it understands likely human rights risks in its sector, the company’s most salient human rights risks, and how it manages or mitigates them.

The board should ensure that at least one of its members has business and human rights expertise and/or appoint a human rights champion. The board should be aware of the range of human rights contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labour Organization’s core conventions, as well as the standard of conduct for business set out in the UN Guiding Principles.

The executive team should confirm to the board that it has expertise on human rights, distinct from other aspects of sustainability.

To understand how the company has embedded human rights across all business practices, the board should ask for information and evidence on how it has:

  • allocated lead responsibility for human rights at operational and senior management levels, and equipped staff for those roles
  • ensured shared responsibility across different company functions whose actions and decisions may pose risks to human rights
  • implemented governance procedures to make sure the most severe and systemic human rights issues are escalated to the board
  • encouraged staff to talk openly about human rights issues, including tensions between human rights and commercial priorities
  • provided performance incentives that motivate staff to manage human rights risks
  • learned from its experience in identifying and mitigating human rights risks to support continuous improvement, and
  • identified indicators to assess the effectiveness of its human rights risk management processes.

Last updated: 16 Aug 2019