Since its publication in 2011 The Guiding Principles (GPs) on Business and Human Rights has served as the standard for companies seeking to minimize operational and reputational risks by identifying, tracking and reporting on human rights impacts caused by business operations. Numerous companies, including Adidas, GE, and Coca-Cola have endorsed the GPs; and as of 2014, eight governments, including the United States, have either developed, or are currently developing, national action plans on how they will guide businesses to implement the GPs. Though notable progress has been made, companies still struggle to implement the GPs throughout their supply chains, due primarily to a lack of guidance and available tools, both of which his discussion seeks to clarify.
What is this about?
• In adherence with the GPs, companies should formalize their commitments to human rights by developing human rights policies that outline expectations of personnel, business partners and other operational stakeholders, including suppliers.
• In order to translate human rights commitments into practice, companies must perform Human rights impact assessments (HRIA) before, during, and after operations in order to track and report the findings to stakeholders. HRIAs should take into account both sector activities and operational locations in order to identify the potential and actual impacts caused by business operations, including those caused by supply chain activities.
• As support for human rights due diligence processes, the GPs recommend the implementation of operational-level grievance mechanisms such as stakeholder consultations and whistle-blower systems. When communicated effectively to stakeholders, grievance mechanisms serve as an effective tool to restore respect for human rights in the event that adverse impacts occur.
How can EcoVadis assist?
• EcoVadis assists companies in developing Supplier Codes of Conduct that formalize expectations of supplier commitments to respect internationally recognized human rights principles.
• Through our supplier qualifying process EcoVadis facilitates the HRIA process by mapping supply chains to identify those operating in high risk sectors or locations that, when not managed appropriately, enable breaches and non-compliances with human right principles.
• EcoVadis’ supplier CSR assessments evaluate actions implemented by suppliers to enforce compliance with Human rights principles, including grievance mechanisms recommended by the GPs. The assessment can be used by buyers to identify compliance gaps within their supply chains, which can later be addressed by corrective action plans.
All indications suggest the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights will remain the standard for businesses to develop human rights programs around, and therefore should be embraced by companies seeking to minimize operational and reputational risks throughout their supply chains.
This article was written by Michael Smith, CSR Analyst at EcoVadis.