Ruggie publishes UN guidelines for business and human rights

Principles ‘operationalise’ existing ‘protect, respect and remedy’ framework for companies and governments.

John Ruggie, the United Nations (UN) special representative on human rights and business, has published his final recommendations for the setting up of legal structures to protect human rights, which look likely to form the basis of future government regulation and business policies within UN member countries. The guidelines are important for investors looking at potential human rights and legal/reputational risks in the companies they invest in. Ruggie’s “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework”, were published at the end of last week for consideration by the UN’s Human Rights Council. Ruggie was tasked by the UN to “operationalise” the exisiting ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ UN framework on human rights, which rests on three pillars. The first is the state duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business, through appropriate policies, regulation, and adjudication.The second is corporate responsibility to respect human rights and address adverse impacts that occur. The third is greater access by victims to effective remedy, both judicial and non-judicial. The “Guiding Principles” provide concrete and practical recommendations to governments and business for the implementation of these three pillars. For investors, the Guiding Principles notably say that financial reporting requirements should clarify that human rights impacts in some instances may be “material” or “significant” to a company’s economic performance. The report also recommends that companies have in place appropriate human rights policies and processes. It says corporations should track the effectiveness of their response to human rights issues with both qualitative and quantitative indicators, and seek comment from both internal and external sources, including affected stakeholders.
Link to Ruggie report