Human rights agenda gains traction as top business executives use their voices to call for action

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28 October, 2020




The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) today released the second edition of its CEO Guide to Human Rights.

Geneva, 28 October 2020: The Guide brings to life the business drivers for action and the tangible steps chief executives can take to ensure their companies and business partners embrace respect for human rights as an integral part of doing business and drive transformative change in people’s lives.

The CEO Guide embeds a foreword with a Call to Action endorsed by 56 forward-thinking top executives of WBCSD member companies (see full list below). They urge their peers across the business community to raise the bar on human rights performance, embed human rights in corporate culture, set clear expectations of suppliers and business partners and drive meaningful engagement and collaborations with peers, governments as well as civil society. The signatories of the Call to Action represent companies headquartered in 23 countries, with over 4.3 million direct employees, and extensive value chains across the world.

CEO leadership plays a crucial role in ensuring that human rights are taken seriously across companies and business relationships. The Guide highlights four drivers for action beyond compliance that make a compelling business case for any corporate leader: regulation, public interest, business relationships, and investor expectations.

Furthermore, the Guide highlights four specific actions that executives can take to advance respect for human rights: Know the most important human rights for your company; Lead from the top; Engage transparently with stakeholders; and collaborate beyond your comfort zone.

This second edition incorporates 22 additional endorsements, on top of the 34 executives who endorsed the original Call to Action in June 2019. It also incorporates a foreword by Caroline Rees, President & Co-Founder of Shift, the leading center of expertise on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). In her view, “we are witnessing the human, business and societal case being made for business to respect people’s human rights, as set out in the UNGPs. It’s the means through which companies can best tackle the gross inequalities that erode social stability and cohesion. It’s the means to shore up companies’ own resilience and sustainability, by embedding attention to their least resilient stakeholders into business decisions and practices. And it’s the means for companies to contribute meaningfully to the ‘people’ part of sustainable development –lifting people into lives of dignity, equality and opportunity.”

COVID-19 has exposed deep inequalities within our societies and addressing human rights gaps in business can help us build forward better, as we strive to become more resilient in the face of this pandemic, but also to future shocks coming our way.  The second edition of the CEO Guide to Human Rights is timely as it provides business leaders with a blueprint for action to drive positive changes in people‘s lives.

Peter Bakker, WBCSD’s President and CEO

This guide is not only an important Call to Action for all businesses to play an active role in the realization of universal human rights, it’s an invaluable resource for our company, as we continue to evolve our human rights policy and people strategy. I hope that all companies will take note and take up the specific actions laid out in this document.

Peter Oosterveer, CEO of Arcadis and member of WBCSD’s Executive Committee

As a company working across 2300 sites in 75 countries, upholding human rights is at the core of our business model and success. That’s why we work hand in hand with our people and communities to ensure we thrive together. As an early signatory of WBCSD’s CEO Guide to Human Rights, I encourage all to join us to build a smarter and more inclusive world together.

Jan Jenisch, CEO of LafargeHolcim and member of WBCSD’s Executive Committee

We are proud to be part of the WBCSD CEO Guide to Human Rights as we continue to strengthen our commitment in this area. Protecting human rights is fundamental to living our purpose; creating happier, healthier lives with love for nature and to the B Corp journey we are on.

Gilles Andrier, CEO of Givaudan, commented

The CEO Guide is available in numerous languages, with each translation featuring a local Call to Action endorsed by a total of 130 top executives across the world, showcasing the importance of leadership at both global and national levels.

More information

  • Download the CEO Guide to Human Rights here
  • WBCSD contact point: Davide Fiedler, Manager, Social impact

The top executives of WBCSD member companies who endorsed the Call to Action in this second edition of the CEO Guide are:

  • Sunny Verghese, Chair of WBCSD, Co-founder and Group CEO, Olam
  • Björn Rosengren, CEO, ABB Ltd.
  • José Manuel Entrecanales, Chairman & CEO, Acciona
  • Peter Oosterveer, CEO, Arcadis
  • Alfred Stern, CEO, Borealis AG
  • Bernard Looney, CEO, BP
  • Vasco de Mello, Chairman & CEO, Brisa
  • Philip Jansen, CEO, BT
  • Suphachai Chearavanont, CEO, C.P. Group
  • David MacLennan, Chairman and CEO, Cargill
  • Fernando A. González Olivieri, CEO, CEMEX
  • Richard Lancaster, Chief Executive Officer, CLP Holdings Limited
  • Dominic Blakemore, Chief Executive Officer, Compass Group
  • Jean-Bernard Lévy, Chairman and CEO, EDF
  • Miguel Stilwell de Andrade, Interim CEO and CFO, EDP
  • Eldas Saetre, President & CEO, Equinor
  • Claudio Descalzi, CEO, ENI
  • Keryn James, CEO, ERM
  • Gilbert Ghostine, CEO, Firmenich
  • Takahito Tokita, CEO, Fujitsu
  • Gilles Andrier, Chief Executive Officer, Givaudan
  • Nadir Godrej, Managing Director, Godrej Industries
  • Brian Griffith, Chairman of the Board, Griffith Foods
  • Jorge Mario Velásquez, CEO, Grupo Argos
  • Toshiaki Higashihara, President & CEO, Hitachi, Ltd.
  • Sanjiv Puri, Chairman and Managing Director, ITC Ltd.
  • Steven Cahillane, Chairman & CEO, Kellogg’s
  • Jan Jenisch, CEO, LafargeHolcim
  • Michael Gelchie, CEO, Louis Dreyfus Company
  • Andreas Eggenberg, Chairman, Masisa
  • Florent Menegaux, CEO, Michelin
  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft Corporation
  • Andrea Àlvares, Chief Marketing, Innovation & Sustainability Officer, Natura
  • Peter Vanacker, President and CEO, Neste Corporation
  • Magdi Batato, Executive Vice President & Head of Operations, Nestlé
  • Shingo Konomoto, Chairman, President and CEO, Nomura Research Institute
  • Vas Narasimhan, Chief Executive Officer, Novartis
  • Ramon Laguarta, Chairman & CEO, PepsiCo
  • Marco Tronchetti Provera, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO, Pirelli
  • Chansin Treenuchagron, President and CEO, PTT
  • Kongkrapan Intarajang, CEO, PTT Global Chemical
  • Jacques van den Broek, CEO, Randstad
  • Roongrote Rangsiyopash, President & CEO, SCG
  • Alistair Field, Group Chief Executive Officer & Managing Director, Sims Limited
  • Ilham Kadri, CEO, Solvay
  • Masaya Futamiya, Director-Chairman, Sompo Japan Insurance Inc.
  • Claudia Azevedo, CEO, Sonae
  • Annika Bresky, President and CEO, Stora Enso
  • Bertrand Camus, CEO, Suez
  • Dr. Heinz-Jürgen Bertram, CEO, Symrise
  • João Castello Branco, CEO, The Navigator Company
  • Patrick Pouyanné, CEO, Total
  • Alan Jope, CEO, Unilever
  • Eduardo Bartolomeo, CEO, Vale
  • Antoine Frérot, CEO, Veolia
  • Marcelo S. Castelli, Global CEO, Votorantim Cimentos