Corporate Human Rights Benchmark: “We really need the data,” says ABP

Companies are failing on UN Guiding Principles, report finds

Dutch civil service pension giant ABP has welcomed the launch of the new Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB), a new ranking backed by investors, saying it needs the data to be able to evaluate companies’ performance on the issue.

“We really need the data,” said ABP Vice-Chair José Meijer at a launch event in London yesterday. “Then we can make better decisions.”

The CHRB found that most large corporates that operate in sectors at high risk of labour abuses are failing to meet the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in what was termed a “deeply concerning” picture by Steve Waygood, the Chief Responsible Investment Officer at Aviva Investors who chairs the CHRB.
He said a quarter of companies score less than 10% on the assessment and an “alarming amount” of companies score no points for human rights due diligence — food for thought for governments and a “wake-up call” for businesses and investors.
ABP’s Meijer explained how the fund, which has assets of €419bn, changed its responsible investment policy in 2015 towards total integration of ESG and concrete objectives and goals – with full implementation by 2020.ABP’s asset manager APG is a supporter of the CHRB alongside other firms like Nordea the Eiris Foundation, the Netherlands’ VBDO and others.

She said the CHRB data helps it to identify leaders and laggards amongst companies as an aid to engagement, and to ensure firms’ deliver on their “beloften” (the Dutch word for ‘promises’).

“That will make the list of our investment a lot smaller,” said told delegates.

As for the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Meijer said ABP plans to have €58bn invested in what it calls Sustainable Development Investments (SDI) by 2020.

Meijer, who is an employee representative on ABP’s board, added: “We need more focus on the S [social] in ESG, that’s a big focus for ABP in the next few years.”

“We really need to bring this to the mainstream; all investors have to take human rights into account, like [they do with] climate change.”

She called for “dialogue, dialogue, dialogue” with all stakeholders, i.e. with companies and wider society.

Responsible Investor ran an interview with Meijer last year which is available here.