Human Rights: A Business Taboo?

A topic that has recently sparked my interest is Social Responsibility, and how companies perceive and address issues on Human Rights. The Businesses environment is rapidly changing, mainly due to governmental pressures and the increase of regulations. However, regulations alone cannot change a company’s objectives, and motivation must often be intrinsic to be sustainable.

Human rights are becoming more and more significant within organisations: in light of the rise in consumer awareness. I have particularly gained an interest within the product supply chain, and how we can address social issues throughout this. Human Rights within the modern organisation are – thankfully – becoming a more primary issue, however, are frequently overlooked, and often ignored due the ambiguity of the concept, and to the difficulties in tackling the issue at large.

This rise in consumer awareness has given opportunity for many companies to use the positive action of ‘acting in favour of Human Rights’ as a competitive advantage – currently, we can be certain that it is a competitive disadvantage if it is not done well: as demonstrated in organisational scandals and the damaging consequence of these on brand image. To tackle this, we must address the definite divide between business and the notion of positive social impact, perhaps due to the significant contrast between the two.

We could address this divide by embedding human rights topics and issues throughout our society, stressing the importance of this knowledge prior to business decisions, particularly in Organisational Managers. After all, the negative consequences of poorly addressing social impact are detrimental, with human lives at stake. Companies can achieve this by setting goals that are both practical and achievable. In progressively embedding this knowledge into society, thus organisations, we can be sure, at least, that we will be more aware and more considerate of these social issues: even if we cannot solve them.

In response to the issue, the WBCSD are providing businesses with continuous support and advice on the subject. 5 years ago, the WBCSD were endorsed by the United Nations in their ‘Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights’, since, they have worked alongside the intergovernmental organisation: in a bid to protect human lives. Recently, the WBCSD have provided businesses worldwide access to their ‘Business & Human Rights: From Principles to Action’ framework. This outline (which is based on the WBCSD’s Sustainable Development Goals) provides organisations with the means to progress within the human rights discussion; the launch of benchmarks and WBCSD led webinars and workshops provides further encouragement for these companies.

Hopefully, these attempts will resolve this unreasonable societal issue, and rid the ‘Human Rights taboo’ still vastly prominent within so many organisations.

Thanks for reading! Bethan.





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