The fast fashion industry, the clean tech industry, and recent reports of human rights abuses at this year’s World Cup in Qatar all confirm the obvious. Be assured that horrific details will spread across traditional and social media. Companies can hire crisis management firms to explain everything they want, but images continue to tell the story.
Human rights transparency goes beyond self-regulation. According to a recent report from the World Benchmarking Alliance, there is a strong correlation between disclosure and performance on this challenge. Since the organization first began analyzing the human rights record of the global business community in 2017, it has found that respect for human rights has grown. Nonetheless, there are still many gaps that are causing human suffering around the world while jeopardizing the reputation of many companies.
What are the biggest differences in terms of companies’ human rights performance? The findings of this study show that companies that elevate such responsibilities to the highest level across senior management have a strong track record in this area. . From an alliance perspective, companies whose human rights scores rose from zero in a few years were due to board involvement. “Among the most improved companies [human rights]The majority (75%) have senior-level responsibility for human rights and allocate resources and expertise to manage human rights on a day-to-day basis within their operations and supply chains,” the report authors conclude. attached.
On the other hand, 70% of companies with a score of 0 have no such resources at senior management or board level.
Clearly, having a written commitment to respect and address human rights is not enough. You’ve probably seen his prose in many of his corporate websites’ sustainability sections. Prose is pretty conventional.
It’s Not Enough: Companies Need to Explain how They are fulfilling these commitments. As such, only about 25% of the companies surveyed by the Alliance actually disclose how they engage with individuals and organizations on these issues. So how do many companies actually handle complaints related to these issues? Because more than 90% of the companies surveyed do not share how they engage with the workers, communities or groups such as NGOs behind the complaints.
There lies the big problem behind the current level of human rights performance within the global business community. The Alliance, at best, describes it as “letting go” of the company’s current MO across the board. The traditional approach is to have a “code of conduct” or set of policies that explain to a company’s suppliers how to deal with human rights issues. However, support and oversight for such programs is often lacking. Risks such as child and forced labour, land rights, women’s rights, fair wages, and more that put businesses on the line are often sidelined until these violations are made public and shared across various media platforms. . The Alliance notes that only about one-third of all companies actually articulate policies related to such challenges. Additionally, there is a lack of transparency on these issues, as only 2% of the companies surveyed disclose the number of people actually affected by such violations.
Finally, COP27 reminds us that: Any level of commitment to addressing climate change does not mean that a business can ignore human rights. World leaders are increasingly talking about a just transition, a climate action plan that is socially equitable and includes the needs of the most disadvantaged communities. But as the human rights activist made clear in the weeks leading up to and during COP27, the world’s climate and the struggle for human dignity around the world go hand in hand. In fact, another study from the Alliance shows that companies with strong human rights scores also show promise when it comes to transitioning to a just transition. And companies that score low on this indicator are in decline and shaken when it comes to tackling climate change. .
With so many workers around the world underpaid, is it too much demand to combine human rights and executive compensation? Not from an Alliance perspective. “Linking corporate performance on human rights to executive compensation has the potential to increase accountability and incentives to respect human rights at the highest levels of business,” the group concluded.
Image credit: Kuzzat Altay via Unsplash