To Regulate or not to regulate – That is the Question!

It seems to be a common assumption, perhaps an incorrect one, that business is not in favor of regulation of their activities. A recent findings report initiated by the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights (UNWG) would seem to question that assumption, to some extent [1].

To go back in time, from 2005 to 2011 John Ruggie served as UN Special Rapporteur on Business and Human Rights and he in this capacity he produced  the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP). This framework is intended to be the global standard to prevent and address the risk of adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity.

By Resolution A/HRC/17/4 the UN Human Rights Council established the Working Group (UNWG) which consists of five independent experts, of balanced geographical representation, for a period of three years. The Working Group was asked to promote the effective and comprehensive dissemination and implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles.

With this in mind, UNWG has just produced their findings and the results are worth discussing. First of all, it would appear that there is clear recognition by the businesses who responded of their responsibility to respect Human Rights from a risk management perspective but also because it is the right thing to do. 50% of respondents to the questionnaire were aware of the UNGP and they have a public statement on human rights in place. Another interesting element that emerged from the study was the demand from business for education and training on Human Rights and Business  and their need for tools, training and support in building internal awareness. The Financial Times article already cited in my blog would seem to reinforce this very important issue with regards to teaching this subject in business schools.

Of particular interest, in my opinion, was the fact that 45.75% of respondents thought that effective enforcement of local law is needed to enable companies to take forward their corporate responsibility to respect human rights.

This reinforces the various discussions I have had with business people dealing with these issues over the last number of years -“Please let us have a level playing field, this is important for the companies who do the best they can to be good corporate citizens”.  That is what I heard…..

[1] 153 companies responded to a survey which gave, according to the authors, “a useful perspective on business and human rights issues”. 39 countries were represented and approximately 4.5% of the 153 companies operate in 150 countries or more.

Mary Mayenfisch-Tobin, BCL, LL.M, Solicitor

marymayenfish

 

 

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