New York, Geneva, 18 July 2018: Shift, the leading center of expertise on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights-  in collaboration with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), has launched a report entitled “The Human Rights Opportunity”  bringing to life one of the most significant, but most often overlooked opportunities for business to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) agenda: supporting the realization of universal human rights.

The report was launched today at the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in New York, where governments, civil society and business gather to review progress towards the SDGs and focusing in particular on several SDGs, including SDG 17: focusing on Partnership for the Goals is at the heart of discussions.

As business scales up action to contribute to the SDGs, many companies are struggling to shape a coherent strategy. Most will choose which SDGs to contribute to, based on current activities and aspirations, but fail to fully consider the range of impacts associated with their business.

The Human Rights Opportunity” demonstrates how companies can ensure a principled and coherent contribution to the SDGs by developing a holistic SDG strategy with two steps:

  1. Identify: The most effective way for companies to boost their contributions to the SDGs is by identifying the most severe impacts on people and planet associated with their business, and then tackling those negative impacts in ways that maximize positive outcomes.
  2. Innovate: Additionally, companies that are developing and delivering new products and services should do so in ways that avoid negative impacts on people and planet in the process.

This simple model is brought to life by 15 real-life cases demonstrating how companies are harnessing innovation, leadership, influence and partnerships to address four of the most complex and damaging challenges to people across the globe: forced labor, living wages, gender equality and land rights. While these are often viewed as business risk and compliance issue, this report highlights that by tackling human rights issues, companies have the power to bring transformative, positive change to the lives of millions of workers, their families and their communities.  

Peter Bakker, President and CEO of WBCSD, and Caroline Rees, President and Co-Founder of Shift, share a call to action: “With this collection of robust case studies, we hope to inform and inspire meaningful business action, and invite companies, partners and stakeholders to work with us to support the SDGs”.