Taking a Corporate Human Rights Due Diligence Approach

What does human rights due diligence mean?

Human rights due diligence is an ongoing risk management process that an organisation takes to both identify and act to prevent risks on workers and uphold human rights.

Many businesses today are working to identify and understand supply chain risks and have an opportunity to further improve actions to uphold human rights within their operations and supply chain.

In a recent UN report, the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights highlights the importance of human rights due diligence. The Group recommends ways to promote responsible business to companies, governments and investors, which they presented at the UN General Assembly 2018. Read the UN’s executive summary.


How to start and incorporate human rights due diligence

The UN’s key message for businesses is: just get started. The UN Guiding Principles affirm that all business enterprises have an independent responsibility to respect human rights. Business can achieve human rights due diligence using the following guide:

  • Assessing potential and actual impacts on human rights – mapping suppliers and the supply chain and proactively trying to understand the impacts of activities.
  • Cross-checking the findings from risk assessments with company processes
  • Communicating to stakeholders how you are addressing impacts. Consumers will be more driven toward a business that promotes human rights.
  • Promoting socially responsible practices to investors. Demonstrating risk management activities to investors will give business leverage, particularly in mainstream investment decision-making.
  • Showing stakeholders, particularly those affected, your progress. Engaging with affected stakeholders and applying a priority-based approach to their issues. All businesses should consider collaborating with other organisations to do this, especially when dealing with systemic human rights issue.
  • Use all available regulatory and government policy as a guide frameworks, national action plans and economic incentives will help your business become compliant. Corporate human rights due diligence has become a standard expectation of business practice, and organisations can no longer cite a lack of knowledge or awareness for not ‘getting started’.
  • Utilising all available levers addressing governance gaps and align with the Guiding Principles. Legislation, acting as economic role models, policy coherence, providing business guidance and facilitating multi-stakeholder platforms are examples of ways to address governance gaps.
  • Entities in the investment community should embed human rights due diligence in their own responsibility under the Guiding Principles. Specifically – by requesting effective human rights behaviour in the companies they invest in.




This article uses information from the following sources:

Ethical Trading Initiative, Human Rights Due Diligence framework https://www.ethicaltrade.org/sites/default/files/shared_resources/eti_human_rights_due_diligence_framework_exec_summary.pdf

BSR, are you prepared for the future of business and human rights?


United Nations, Corporate human rights due diligence: emerging practices, challenges and ways forward https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Business/ExecutiveSummaryA73163.pdf


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