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BLIHR | Business & Human Rights

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One of the most challenging areas of corporate responsibility for companies to address is human rights and there is a clear need for more tools and guidance. This Guide is intended to help meet this need and, in doing so, help companies make the integration of human rights a successful part of their business.

Companies are becoming increasingly aware of the contribution they can make to the advancement of human rights within their spheres of influence, and of the benefits such an approach can have for their business.  Human rights continue to be primarily a responsibility of governments, but it is now widely acknowledged that companies can do a great deal to respect and support human rights. Being proactive on human rights makes good business sense, as well as being the right thing to do.

Human rights are the basic rights of each human being, independent of race, sex, religion, political opinion, social status or any other characteristic. Through international human rights conventions, governments commit to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the human rights of their citizens and other individuals within and beyond their borders. 

There are compelling reasons why businesses should include human rights in their strategies, policies, practices and procedures. Businesses increasingly need a stable international environment in which to operate, with sustainable markets and a “level playing field” of opportunities. Human rights offer a common framework for businesses to understand societies’ expectations and deliver value to stakeholders in a more sustainable way. This Guide demonstrates that, in a business context, advancing human rights is as much about realising new opportunities and managing risk as it is about meeting essential global standards.

The debate about the nature and scope of companies’ human rights responsibilities is a relatively recent one, as is the idea of applying human rights to business decisions and operations.   For companies, human rights provide a universal benchmark for essential standards of behaviour.

Many national laws and regulations have evolved as a result of a state’s obligation to implement human rights standards. Companies must, of course, observe such laws in all countries and jurisdictions in which they operate, but many business leaders now look beyond the essential or expected actions of their companies on a local level, striving instead to ensure best possible practice consistently on a global basis.
 

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