The idea of human rights is as simple as it is powerful: that people have a right to be treated with dignity. Human rights are inherent in all human beings, whatever their nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language or any other status. Every individual is entitled to enjoy human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.
While Governments have the duty to protect individuals against human rights abuses by third parties, businesses are increasingly recognizing their legal, moral and commercial need to respect human rights. Today, businesses are subject to closer scrutiny of their impacts on people and the planet. Companies that focus on respecting human rights — and cultivate positive relationships with their stakeholders — can help ensure their business’ continued growth and social license to operate.
The Human Rights Principles (Principles 1 and 2) of the UN Global Compact are derived from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We call on companies to respect and support internationally-proclaimed human rights and to ensure they are not complicit in human rights abuses. Before us is a unique opportunity to create a more equitable and sustainable society. The global business community can and must answer the call and stand up for human rights.
Businesses have minimum responsibilities to meet to respect human rights. They must act with due diligence to avoid infringing the rights of others, which includes addressing any negative human rights impacts related to their business. They must also abide by international standards and avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their activities and relationships.
Beyond these minimum requirements, companies can make voluntary, positive contributions to support human rights. For example, they can create diverse and inclusive workplaces, invest in communities and public policy advocacy, and engage employees and communities to promote collective action. While these types of actions to support human rights are encouraged, they do not substitute for nor do they offset respect for human rights.
The UN Global Compact is mobilizing companies everywhere to close the gap between business aspiration and business action on human rights. We provide tools and resources aligned with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), as compliance with local laws may not be sufficient. The UNGPs clarify that the responsibility to respect human rights goes beyond compliance and constitutes a global standard of expected conduct applicable to all businesses in all situations. It therefore also exists independently of an enterprise’s own commitment to human rights. There can be legal, financial and reputational consequences if enterprises fail to meet the responsibility to respect.
We seek to guide businesses around the world to extend risk management processes to include risks to people and help them prepare and adapt as legislation emerges on mandatory human rights due diligence, which the UN Global Compact fully supports. We also offer engagement opportunities to help businesses respect and support human rights.
- Companies need to move from commitment to action and impact. More than 90% of UN Global Compact business participants report having human rights policies in place, yet only 18% report conducting human rights impact assessments
- For companies that are not committed to the UN Global Compact, the human rights coherance gaps are even wider — the 2020 Corporate Human Rights Benchmark shows that 46% of all companies assessed failed to score any points under the benchmark’s due diligence indicators
- Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is not possible without bold action on human rights: more than 90% of the 169 SDG targets are related to human rights and labour standards
- The UN Global Compact Annual Survey shows that 72% of the responding companies are committed to implementing the UN Guding Principles, but 36% noted that extending the UNGPs throughout their supply chain was a challenge
- While 66.9% of respondents said they believe human rights will become a mainstream consideration for investors, 18% highlighted a lack of understanding of their human rights responsibilities
Ways to Engage