Responsibility of Businesses
How can businesses impact human rights?
Businesses may have a serious impact on human rights in various ways. They may adversely affect the rights of those working for them within their direct operations or within supply chains by failing to comply with protections laid under labor laws, failing to comply with occupational health and safety standards, partaking in child, forced or bonded labor etc.
They may also impact the rights of those who reside in the communities in which they operate be it at home or abroad, by violating land rights, rights relating to resources such as water, minerals, environmental rights, failing to engage with communities, failing to comply with adequate standards of health and safety etc.
Why should businesses protect human rights?
There is a strong case to be made for businesses to respect human rights in Pakistan. Knowledge of human rights issues helps businesses identify and understand what is expected of them in relation to domestic law and international human rights standards applicable to their business operations. The benefits what would accrue to businesses would significantly outweigh any cost or burden in bringing the organization in line with human rights. By respecting human rights in their operations, businesses can expect the following benefits:
- Compliance with human rights boosts employee morale, attracts the best talent and improves employee care and satisfaction within the company.
- It strengthens brand and business reputation as well. Human rights compliant companies gain a distinct brand value increase as compared to their competitors. This improves marketing opportunities and creates a dedicated customer base.
- Compliance with human rights can have positive impacts on the management of a company. It can prevent crisis situations and provide solutions to operational risks.
- It can also improve exports as by ensuring human rights compliance companies can fulfill foreign government import requirements as well as those requirements that importing companies impose on their suppliers.
How can businesses address human rights issues?
To enforce human rights within their activities, businesses can do the following:
- Understand your sphere of influence: As a prerequisite to the protection of human rights, businesses must understand the way in which the rights, of their employees, third party contractors and of those who are part of the communities in which they operate.
- Develop express human rights policy commitments: Businesses must establish human rights policies which are endorsed at the executive level and are embedded in the Company’s management system.
- Carry out Human Rights Due Diligence: To meet a minimum standard of protection, Companies must carry out human rights impact assessments to identify, prevent and mitigate adverse impacts of business activity.
- Engage with stakeholders: Stakeholder dialogue is essential as it provides first-hand information in relation to those whose rights are being affected.
- Provide adequate remedies: It is essential to the enforcement of human rights that remediation mechanisms have been established to cater to violations of human rights.
Establish Basic Understanding
- Appointing Focal Person
- Establishing internal working group
Identify Existing Processes
- Understanding impact of business activity on human rights
- Developing innovative solutions
Introduce Human Rights Policy
- Engaging with relevant stakeholders and internal management
- Embedding human rights processes
Human Rights Due Diligence
As a first step companies must understand their responsibility to protect human rights. In pursuance of this, it is important for companies to establish human rights policies, appoint focal persons or establish working groups or committees to identify their level of compliance with human rights standards. Companies must assess existing protections and assess the nature of impact that they have on human rights through their business operations (both direct and within their supply chains) and should work towards identifying innovative solutions to mitigate such impacts. This can be done through the process of human rights due diligence (HRDD).
HRDD is the process through which businesses conduct an assessment of their activities and their direct and indirect, actual or potential impact on human rights. This must be conducted with regards to the rights of their employees, rights of those who reside in the communities in which they operate and based on the environment and context of the location in which they operate.
HRDD ensures that a human rights-based approach is employed in relation to business activity as well so that any negative impacts of business operations on human rights can be effectively mitigated.
HRDD primarily involves the following phases: