This week marks the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. From the perspective of sustainability, this is one of the most important historical milestones in the field of corporate responsibility in the respect and protection of human rights.
As a way to celebrate this anniversary, review what has been achieved so far and focus action for the next decade, the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights has just published the report Guiding Principles On Business And Human Rights At 10: Taking stock of the first decade.
The Principles were added to another set of initiatives from different areas, such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises or the ILO conventions on fundamental rights, which are along the same lines, reinforcing the responsibility and action of companies in safeguarding and promoting human rights.
In this decade we have also seen how the institutional and public sector has also tried to generate a faster movement of action. Very especially thanks to the European Union, which in its 2011 -2014 Strategy on Corporate Social Responsibility (Brussels, 25.10.2011, COM(2011) 681) promoted that European countries develop their own national business and human rights plans, as a mechanism to reinforce the implementation of these guiding principles. (In the case of Spain under the title National Action Plan for business and human rights approved in 2017).
Ten years after the Guiding Principles, paradoxically, we find that the level of progress we had hoped for has not been achieved.
It is necessary and urgent to be aware of the need to raise the level of corporate responsibility in this area. This can be done by reinforcing knowledge on the subject (what they are, what they imply, challenges, opportunities...), better tools to operationalize commitments, more resources to develop initiatives and more dialogue and collaboration to transversalize good practices, for example.
At Forética we work very strongly in these areas. We have valuable international alliances to understand the new developments and trends in these areas, especially with CSR Europe and WBCSD, which has useful tools such as the Business and Human Rights Gateway a knowledge space of great value for companies that want to keep abreast of the main elements in this area.
As a result of these alliances, in 2019 we are publishing a Guide for CEOs on Human Rights, which aims to transfer the importance of this issue to the decision-making spheres of companies, in the certainty that it is an essential step to continue advancing in these commitments.
We are also proud of our partnership with the World Benchmarking Alliance, WBA, one of the global benchmark entities in sustainability that, among other value levers, conducts and develops the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark. A study that annually analyzes the level of preparation and performance of the 200 most relevant companies in terms of human rights impact.
In addition, the Social Impact Cluster, which in 2021 has 55 large Forética member companies and is led by Cajamar, Ibercaja, ILUNION and Naturgy, is focused precisely on promoting a space for dialogue and knowledge on how companies can advance in the implementation of human rights in their value chain and operations.
In this area we have prepared a "human rights survival kit for business " and have recently developed workshops on how to develop practical solutions for integrating human rights risks into business strategy.
Of course, we remain very attentive to the new developments that are taking place during this anniversary year. Among the most noteworthy is the approval of very interesting national regulations, such as the German due diligence law(while we are waiting for the European regulation, which is currently scheduled for autumn), or the recentruling of a Dutch court that obliges the oil company Shell to reduce its emissions in line with the Paris Agreement on the grounds that otherwise the fundamental rights of different groups may be limited or violated.
With all this in mind, on October 20 we will be holding an event where we at Forética will analyze and review this year, which may represent a new turning point in the decisive role of companies in the respect and protection of human rights. We will gather some of the main conclusions of the cluster deliverables and summarize a whole year of work in a document that we will present publicly. Are you joining us?