Over 30 CEOs call for business action on human rights

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18 June, 2019




The CEO Guide to Human Rights was launched today and brings to life the business drivers for action and the tangible steps CEOs can take to ensure their companies go beyond compliance and drive transformative change in people’s lives.

Geneva, 19 June 2019 – In the newest CEO Guide of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), over 30 top business executives from across the world call for urgent business leadership on respect for human rights. The CEO Guide to Human Rights was launched today, at the Bloomberg Sustainable Business Summit 2019 in London, and brings to life the business drivers for action and the tangible steps CEOs can take to ensure their companies go beyond compliance and drive transformative change in people’s lives.

The 35 forward-thinking top executives of WBCSD member companies are sending clear messages 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 executives who have signed this Guide represent 35 companies headquartered across 17 countries, with 2.8 million direct employees and extensive global supply chains across 17 industry sectors.

Business has a fundamental responsibility to respect human rights, but also a huge opportunity to transform people’s lives for the better. Realizing universal human rights for all is one of the most powerful opportunities we have to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”, said Peter Bakker, WBCSD’s President and CEO. “The Guide puts forward a bold and unprecedented statement from business leaders, whose companies’ actions and policies influence vast global supply chains. We hope their leadership will inspire other CEOs to take action in support of this important cause.

The CEO Guide highlights four drivers for action beyond compliance that make a compelling business case for any corporate leader:

  • Regulation is making expectations enforceable;
  • Public interest is high;
  • Business relationships are in the spotlight; and
  • Investor expectations are rising.

CEO leadership plays a crucial role in ensuring that human rights are taken seriously across their own companies and business relationships. To support this, the CEO Guide highlights 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;
  • Collaborate beyond your comfort zone.

While the debate on corporate respect for human rights has gained tremendous prominence since the launch of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) in 2011, we observed that CEO leadership on this topic was limited, and we believe the time has come to elevate the debate to the C-suite and encourage CEO action beyond a few leading companies.

Kitrhona Cerri, Director of Social Impact at WBCSD

Drawing on this realization, the CEO Guide is the result of collaborative efforts between WBCSD and executives from WBCSD member companies, as well as expert input and review from our partners at Shift, the leading center of expertise on the UNGPs.

The CEO Guide is published in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish, including dedicated forewords endorsed by WBCSD Global Network Partners and the CEOs of their member companies. The French version of the guide will be launched in Paris tomorrow, 20 June, at an event hosted by Veolia and organized in partnership by WBCSD and Enterprise pour les Droits de l’Homme (edh).

Antoine Frérot, CEO of Veolia, adds his personal call to action to the CEO Guide: Veolia’s raison d’être is to make a decisive contribution to human progress through the provision of environmental services. I encourage others to join us in our firm commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, with respect for human rights as a guiding thread.

The CEO Guide can be downloaded via this link – for more information, please contact Kitrhona Cerri


The CEOs who have signed the Guide are:

Sunny Verghese, Co-Founder and Group CEO, Olam International; José Manuel Entrecanales, Chairman and CEO, Acciona; Vasco de Mello, Chairman & CEO, Brisa; Philip Jansen, CEO, BT; David McLennan, Chairman and CEO, Cargill; Fernando A. González Olivieri, CEO, Cemex; Supachai Chearavanont, CEO, CP Group; Jean-Bernard Lévy, Chairman and CEO, EDF; Antonio Mexia, CEO, EDP; Claudio Descalzi, CEO, ENI; Keryn James, CEO, ERM; Gilbert Ghostine, CEO, Firmenich; Masami Yamamoto, Director Chairman, Fujitsu; Toshiaki Higashihara, President & CEO, Hitachi; Sanjiv Puri, Chairman and Managing Director, ITC; Steven Cahillane, Chairman & CEO, Kellogg’s; Ian McIntosh, CEO, Louis Dreyfus Company; Andreas Eggenberg, Chairman, Masisa; Brad Smith, President, Microsoft Corporation; Florent Menegaux, CEO, Michelin; Andrea Àlvares, Chief Marketing, Innovation & Sustainability Officer, Natura; Magdi Batato, Executive Vice President & Head of Operations, Nestlé; Marco Tronchetti Provera, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO, Pirelli; Chansin Treenuchagron, President and CEO, PTT; Supattanapong Punmeechaow, President and CEO, PTT Global Chemical; Jacques van den Broek, CEO, Randstad; Claudia Azevedo, CEO, Sonae; Karl Henrik Sundström, 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; Antoine Frérot, CEO, Veolia; Marcelo S. Castelli, Global CEO, Votorantim Cimentos.