Geneva, 18 January 2021: Human rights due diligence is a crucial means to manage risks in corporate supply chains. Making robust human rights due diligence part of standard business practice is key to advancing corporate respect for human rights and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Ensuring that human rights are integrated into business planning will also be critical to the success of building forward better from the COVID-19 pandemic.
On 10 December of last year, the Geneva Centre for Business and Human Rights (GCBHR), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) jointly hosted an online panel discussion commemorating International Human Rights Day by discussing the challenges and concrete solutions to implement human rights due diligence in complex, global business operations.
The session was opened by a video-recorded keynote speech from Prof. Anita Ramasastry (Chair, UN Working Group Business Human Rights), and followed by a discussion with Dante Pesce (Vice-Chair, UN Working Group Business Human Rights), Richa Mittal (Senior Director Supply Chain Innovation & Partnership, Fair Labour Association - FLA), Vera Galarza (Senior Director Social Impact, ALDO Group), André Podleisek (Head of Corporate Sustainability, Schindler Group) and Peter Nestor (Head of Human Rights, Novartis).
Some key takeaways from the discussion include:
- Good practices to better identify and evaluate human rights risks include 1) recognizing that the most severe human rights risks often lie deep in the supply chain, 2) moving beyond typical audit approaches to more holistic human rights impact assessments, 3) transitioning away from pilot programs to create systemic change.
- Human rights due diligence relies on meaningful supplier engagement. Engaging in dialogue with suppliers can help companies understand if and how their own purchasing practices and processes may affect non-compliance by suppliers. Best practices stood out by building trust with suppliers and aligning supplier expectations and incentives across their respective industry.
- To ensure core business process are aligned with human rights, top management awareness, buy-in and leadership were agreed as being as important as breaking down silos between different business units.
- Panelists agreed on the need to strengthen efforts to move from mostly reactive grievance mechanisms to systems that help proactively preventing negative human rights impacts.
- Collective action and meaningful engagement with peers, civil society and government is key to defining common standards and rules, align to best practices and to build leverage when the context is particularly challenging.
- Considering that in many countries the public sector has the largest supply chain, the discussion highlighted that - beyond regulation and setting the legislative framework – the role of government is to lead by example.
Company representatives on the panel once again confirmed their commitment to managing human rights risks in their operations and supply chains. All panelists supported the need for a more proactive role by business associations and agreed that collaborative initiatives play an important role in helping to define and enforce a level playing field of human rights expectations for companies.
Follow these links to
- Watch the recording
- Download the summary
- Read opening remarks by Anita Ramasastry's, Chair, UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights
Davide Fiedler – Manager Social Impact, WBCSD
WBCSD resources on business and human rights