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The Road from Principles to Practice

The Road from Principles to Practice

The death of over 1,000 garment workers in Bangladesh when the Rana Plaza factory building collapsed in April 2013 cast a renewed spotlight on the responsibility of business to respect human rights, not only in their own operations but in those of their suppliers.

This renewed attention forms the backdrop to ‘The road from principles to practice: Today’s challenges for business in respecting human rights.’ The Economist Intelligence Unit report explores the views of businesses worldwide on their responsibility to respect human rights and the ways in which these obligations are carried out. The research, which is based on a global online survey of 853 senior executives and interviews with nine high-profile experts in human rights, was supported by Mazars and ten other organisations, including governments, non-governmental organisations, multinational companies, and law firms.

Role of business

The research finds that companies overwhelmingly perceive a responsibility to respect human rights. More than four-fifths (83%) of respondents say business is an important player in respecting human rights. In each of 11 clusters of human rights that are relevant to business, a majority of respondents say their companies’ operations have an impact.

The business case

The “business case” for respecting human rights tends to rest on behaving ethically and maintaining good relations with employees and others, rather than on short-term risk management or profit-and-loss considerations.

The main driver of companies’ commitment to respect human rights, according to 48% of respondents, is “building sustainable relationships with local communities.”

Practice vs. awareness

Companies are still learning what their human rights responsibilities mean in practice. While most acknowledge that business has a role to play in respecting human rights, 54% have no policy statement referencing human rights, and only 22% have a publicly available statement of policy in this issue.

Barriers to action

The main barriers to addressing human rights are lack of understanding of corporate responsibilities in this area (according to 30% of respondents), lack of available corporate resources for this matter (27%), and lack of training and education for all employees (25%).

To read the full report, please click here.

Aviva Freudmann. Research Director, EMEA Thought Leadership. The Economist Intelligence Unit.

Further reading on this topic: Report Shines Spotlight on Business and Human Rights

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