Anti-Slavery Day, 18 October
Anti-Slavery Day, 18 October

Just half of firms carry out human rights checks

17 October 2016

Almost half of businesses worldwide have never undertaken a dedicated human rights due diligence process or impact assessment, according to a study.

Research by the British Institute of International & Comparative Law (BIICL) and law firm Norton Rose Fulbright found a significant number of businesses neglected their potential human rights risks. 

As part of the research 152 major companies were surveyed, but only 51% said they performed a dedicated assessment for human rights due diligence, covering the full range of a company’s human rights obligations.

Of those that did carry out the assessments, 77% identified actual or potential human rights impacts and 72% found adverse impacts linked to supplier activities.

By contract, of those companies that did not conduct the assessments, only 19% identified potential or adverse impacts and only 29% identified impacts linked to suppliers.

The findings come ahead of Anti-Slavery Day tomorrow, a national day that began in 2010 to raise awareness of modern slavery.

The survey found that when companies limited ethical considerations to processes such as health and safety, equalities or labour rights, they may fail to see other potential human rights risks.

Nearly 60% of the businesses that had undertaken the assessments had in the past faced allegations of human rights “impacts”, the report said.

Professor Robert McCorquodale, director of BIICL, said significant changes to national and EU laws had made the human rights performance of companies an increasingly important corporate issue.

But he added: “Our report has found that half of companies don’t even have a dedicated human rights due diligence process.

“As a result, they are failing to pick up adverse human rights impacts in their business, and with third parties, such as suppliers.”

This was despite the clear recommendations of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which is the international standard in this area, he said.

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