Corporate reporting on human rights: Insights from WBCSD members’ sustainability and integrated reports

This year marks five years since the UN Human Rights Council endorsed the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), establishing an authoritative global standard on the respective roles of businesses and governments in helping ensure that companies respect human rights in their own operations and through their business relationships.

Geneva, 17 October 2016 – Since that time, through its Action2020 platform, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) has been advocating for companies within its membership and beyond to embed the UNGPs in their operations and to clearly track progress.

Against this backdrop, and in recognition of the crucial role played by robust and transparent human rights reporting in the operationalization of the UNGPs, in 2016 the WBCSD has integrated disclosures regarding human rights into its “Reporting Matters” analysis of member company sustainability reporting, with a view to assessing current trends among its membership. Some of the highlights from this analysis are as follows:

  • There is clear and encouraging evidence that members are embracing human rights responsibilities at the policy level, with 87% of reports reviewed containing public commitments to respect human rights
  • 76% of members disclose details on how they communicate their position on human rights to suppliers, while 56% report on specific processes to identify and assess adverse human rights risks along their supply chains.
  • Challenges remain regarding around the roll-out of comprehensive human rights due diligence systems; at present, 33% of companies identify processes to integrate and act upon the findings of human rights assessments, while 23% publicly commit to tracking the effectiveness of their responses to human rights impacts.
  • There are also limitations in terms of transparency: 26% of member companies currently choose to disclose details of adverse human rights impacts that they have identified and just 12% provide specific examples of human rights-related grievances raised by stakeholders.

These results point to the fact that, although the work of embedding the UNGPs into practice is picking up speed, there remain barriers for companies to overcome regarding their full implementation. The WBCSD is taking these findings into account as it continues to focus on scaling up action on the UNGPs and enhancing companies’ capacity to make a significant contribution to the SDGs by advancing respect for human rights