Business Relationships Project

This project is aimed at learning about business practices and operational challenges when addressing respect for human rights in business relationships – joint ventures, acquisitions, suppliers, customers, distributors, franchisees and host government agreements.

A common feature and theme of GBI discussions since 2009 has been business leaders expressing that diverse relationships with business partners (joint ventures, acquisitions, suppliers, customers, distributors, franchisees etc.) are increasingly central to business strategies, an area where risks of human rights impacts is little understood and yet an area with a lack of business learning and clarity about current/good practices. At the same time, the UN Guiding Principles (in their draft and endorsed form) require that the “Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights” expands to human rights impacts that businesses “contribute to” or are “directly linked to” by virtue of their business relationships.

Report – State of Play: The Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights in Business Relationships

In advance of the first annual United Nations (UN) Forum on Business and Human Rights, the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) and the Global Business Initiative on Human Rights released a new report that takes stock of efforts by a group of 14 international companies to address the human rights impacts associated with their daily interactions with business partners of all sizes around the world.  This effort was a  next step from the IHRB June 2010 report, published by IHRB entitled State of Play Report on Human Rights Due Diligence.

In his foreword to the report, Professor John Ruggie of Harvard University, former UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights and current Chair of IHRB’s International Advisory Board notes that:

“Companies increasingly make reference to human rights issues in their business operations – in due diligence investigations, in contracts with partners, operational guidelines, and reports to investors and other stakeholders. All this, supported by the work of industry associations and multi-stakeholder initiatives and international organisations, is helping to build what the report calls ‘a culture of expected adherence to the UN Guiding Principles’.”

The State of Play report was produced with financial contributions from the Foreign Ministries of the Netherlands and Sweden (in the case of IHRB) and from companies participating in the project (in the case of GBI) – Anglo American; Chevron; The Coca-Cola Company; De Beers; Diageo; Flextronics; General Electric; Hewlett-Packard; A.P. Moller-Maersk; Shell; Siemens; Sime Darby; Syngenta; Total.