Business Voice Series
The GBI “Business Voice” project is a series of podcast interviews with business leaders from around the world focused on implementation of corporate respect for human rights.
The rationale for the series is to build a publicly available knowledge base of diverse approaches and operational challenges faced by businesses. Initial interviews were launched to coincide with the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit in 2010, with further podcasts being released over the course of the initiative. These recordings focus on how to build company human rights policy commitment, perform various aspects of human rights due diligence in practice and build effective operational level grievance mechanisms.
Complaints Office – Rights-Based Grievance Mechanism – Social License to Operate – Lessons Learnt – Ongoing Challenges
“We are aware of the challenges ahead but we are convinced that the Complaints Office can help the company respect human rights, it contributes to having a social license to operate, and it has definitely helped us to understand and address our impacts in a strategic way.”
UNGPs - Grievance Mechanisms - Communication Channels - Community Advisory Panels – Hotlines
“Grievance mechanisms are an important complement even for the best human rights due diligence process in place: firstly, because they help to identify potential or actual impacts on stakeholders at an early stage, and, secondly, because they address concerns by stakeholders before they turn into grievances, and so help to prevent grievances from escalating”.
Integration – UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights – Policy
Development – Reporting
“I think that one of the challenges for companies in meeting the requirements of the Guiding Principles is to really understand how you can demonstrate that you know and show your performance. One of the areas that is, in my view, underdeveloped is reporting on human rights because this is very difficult to get to grips with and it’s not the same as what you do in, say, health and safety or environment because it’s not easy to have quantifiable metrics for this.”
Getting started - Value-Chain Risk Analysis – High Risk Contexts - Engaging Key Functions
“Leading up to the endorsement in 2011 of the Guiding Principles in the United Nations we conducted a high-level gap analysis where we included assistance from people that had been part of John Ruggie’s team and, based on the outcome of their work, the Council endorsed a two-year programme which is running for 2012 and 2013 where our aim is to understand the Guiding Principles requirements in full and translate them into a business context and into a business language that we can work with internally. One of the initiatives we took after this was also to seek the membership of GBI so we can learn from other companies and have somebody to discuss dilemmas with.”
Policy Commitment – Impacts Across Diverse Businesses – Addressing All Human Rights – Customer-Use
“GE is a hugely diversified company and many of the businesses provoke different aspects of human rights – different salient issues. For example, healthcare – the right to medical treatment and health would be implicated by its mere existence. NBCU – the right to freedom of opinion and expression would be evoked in their operations. Appliances – particularly as it relates to the supply chain in China, in India, in other jurisdictions would prompt questions around wages per hour, EHS, the ability to freely associate, and other typical labor rights issues. Water and energy would naturally have the question of rights to access water as one of its concerns. Our capital business, where we are often engaged in large infrastructure protects and utilise the Equator Principles, would prompt questions around the environment, indigenous peoples and the right to property and so forth.”
Policy Commitment - Addressing All Human Rights - Value-Chain Analysis
“The value of the Guiding Principles from our perspective is that they’ve provided a universally accepted framework as to what a company is supposed to do to show respect for all human rights. Since the adoption of the Guiding Principles by the Human Rights Council, we’ve been moving forward to implement the Guiding Principles. So far we have conducted a value chain analysis of our human rights impacts, we have mapped the risks and mitigation strategies with respect to those potential impacts, and we have updated our existing policies and practices.”
Policy Commitment – Internal Guidance - Engaging Key Functions - Due Diligence - NGO-Led Impact Assessments
“Integration of human rights is in many places of Total. You have Human Resources, as all labour laws linked to human rights; you have External Affairs who have contact with NGOs; Security in relation to the Voluntary Principles on Security and so on…Every month we have a human rights coordination meeting with all those departments and we also do joint training. With Sustainable Development, we go into two countries together every year and we discuss for two days the management of those countries and we answer those questions together.”
Due Diligence – The Business Case
“Within ABB we are faced with the issue of whether we are a force for good (by providing transmitted power) and the answer is ‘yes’ because electrical energy is a catalyst for the achievement of key human rights such as education, healthcare and housing. But also we are part of a project where there may be negative impacts such as the displacement of people, and whether they have been adequately compensated or not is sometimes an open issue, particularly in societies where governance is weak.”
Building Internal Commitment – Risk Versus Impact – Grievance Mechanisms
“We have a division of Social Standards that ensures compliance of the organisation on human rights issues. We have a grievance mechanism. This has been really a powerful tool, and we piloted a grievance mechanism with the help of John Ruggie’s team based on their guidelines. This grievance mechanism has really helped us become aware of issues in the community that we were not capturing before.”
Assessing Existing Policies and Process: Policy Commitment - Engaging leaders - The Language of “Human Rights”
“To focus on leading human rights inside a company as large as GE can be daunting because the employment of the company is over 300,000 people – more than half are scattered outside the US – with over 100 countries of operation and 100s of business facilities….If the control and enforcement mechanism involved a separate procedure and a separate group of people it would fail because what is important in any business is its core processes of how work gets done.”