Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


guinea pigs sought for new human rights guidelines

October 2007

Companies from various industry sectors are to be invited to road test a new guide on how to assess their human rights impacts.

The draft Guide to human rights impact assessment, which has been developed in consultation with business, runs to more than 100 pages and has been produced by the International Finance Corporation and the International Business Leaders Forum.

It aims to help companies address human rights issues ‘in a proactive rather than reactive way … so that they can manage these risks and mitigate or eliminate them before they become
a problem’.

The IFC and IBLF, in collaboration with the United Nations Global Compact Office, hope to recruit ten companies from different industry sectors. Each will be asked to choose a project, operation or business unit on which to carry out the testing, which will take place over the next two years. The final version will be published in five languages.

The guide is based on an eight-step process, by which companies should, among other things, consult with stakeholders to find out what human rights challenges they face, carry out an assessment of their impacts with recommendations to management, and put in place a human rights management programme with allied reporting.

Meanwhile, a study published by Ethical Investment Research Services has identified the countries where companies with advanced human rights policies are most likely to be based.
More than half of large companies in Norway, the Netherlands, the UK, and Finland with major operations in high risk countries have such policies, in contrast with less than five per cent in the US and Japan.

‘The low proportion of US companies achieving an advanced grade may be explained by the frequent omission of freedom of association and collective bargaining from [their] human rights policies’, according to The state of responsible business report. Less than five per cent of companies in Hong Kong with large operations in high risk countries were found to have even a basic human rights policy.

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