12 things to know about human rights due diligence

Collective industry action, high level buy-in and use of technology are all important to the implementation of human rights due diligence (HRDD), according to a report.

In the report law firm Norton Rose Fulbright and the British Institute for International and Comparative Law examined the impact of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights by reviewing policy and interviewing senior business executives and decision-makers.

The guiding principles “seek to provide an authoritative global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse human rights impacts linked to business activity”, according to the UN.

Here are 12 recommendations from the report:

1. HRDD has to be a “robust, substantive and ongoing process” which should take account of “all human rights which the company may possibly impact” and not just those covered by reporting requirements.

2.  Firms should use a “unified and cross-functional internal approach”.

3. HRDD requires governance commitments from the most senior levels, including the board and CEO.

4. HRDD should be understood as a “key component of the company’s commercial goals” which include “ensuring a quality, stable and sustainable supply chain”.

5. HRDD should include transportation and distribution suppliers, which have “received limited attention from companies to date”.

6. People carrying out auditing processes should have appropriate human rights-related experience.

7. Firms should “proactively involve local stakeholders” in information gathering and decision-making.

8. Companies should take part in collective action in the form of industry and other multi-stakeholder initiatives, in part to “assist suppliers in managing the resource demands of participating in customer HRDD exercises”.

9. Technology should be explored to reinforce traceability, identification of human rights impacts, stakeholder engagements, grievance mechanisms and certification.

10. Firms should explore ways of ensuring effective HRDD beyond the first tier, including industry collective action, partnerships with NGOs and “open and honest dialogue with first tier suppliers to increase supply chain transparency”.

11. Companies should take part in consultative processes for regulatory reforms to help ensure new laws are “realistic and effective”.

12. HRDD is a “new and developing area” but firms with less-advanced processes should not be daunted when dealing with leading companies because it is important to “start somewhere”.

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