Embedding the UN Guiding Principles in Finland’s State Financing of Private Sector Activity Abroad

Between 2018-2021, THE FINNISH GOVERNMENT engaged Shift to support a comprehensive approach to integrating the UN Guiding Principles into the work of the main programs and agencies that provide state financing to Finnish businesses investing abroad. This included Finland’s national development finance institution and export credit agency, and several tailored programs, including one focused on private equity.

Shift’s support aimed to strengthen alignment between the policies, processes and practices of these agencies and programs and the expectations of the UNGPs, by embedding a human rights lens in their due diligence approaches. Read the final program report to learn more about the key takeaways – and three tools developed as part of Shift’s wider Valuing Respect Project that can help any financial institution – whether public or private sector – strengthen its human rights efforts.

Using Relationship Data to Improve Business Practices: Measuring Company-Community Relationships at a South African Mine

This is a case study about how Gold Fields, a global mining company, has assessed its relationship with communities around the South Deep Gold Mine in the West Rand, South Africa. Three assessments, in which the company gathered extensive community perceptions via surveys and focus groups, were conducted between 2014 and 2019.

This case study:

  • provides an overview of the methodologies applied by the company, including the indicators that were assessed, how data was gathered, and the ways in which the data has been analyzed by the company to inform actions; and
  • outlines the steps the company has taken to improve its practices based on the insights from the community shared in the assessments. These range from board allocation of resources to adjustments in how the company engages with local communities.

The case study is a good example of how measuring the quality of company-community relationships can not only shed light on the nuanced realities that feed into a company’s overall social license to operate. It also enables data-driven company discussion and decision-making, including among senior leaders and the board.

“At a very early stage of the work, we realized that we needed to listen and understand how our communities really felt about us. Initially, this was an uncomfortable process as we learned about the differences between how we thought the communities felt about our presence and their experiences on the ground. Given strong board-level support and visibility on this new way of engagement, our teams on the ground felt that it was critical to measure the strength of our relationships. Even though there were no readily available tools at the time we got started – a crude windsock would be better than nothing. Much has evolved since those early days with the relationship tools now more developed and providing insights for our long journey ahead in building trust with a key stakeholder. As the saying goes, if it is important, you need to manage it – what you can measure, you can manage.”

Naseem Chohan, EVP Sustainable Development and South Deep Gold Mine board member

“Signals of Seriousness” for Human Rights Due Diligence

This discussion draft is intended for the consideration of the European Commission and other stakeholders as the Commission develops proposals on mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence (mHREDD) and considers how national regulators would implement any such legislation. Shift is submitting this draft together with our formal response to DG JUST’s consultation on a potential new corporate duty to carry out HREDD.

In this discussion draft, we propose some key signals that national regulators could use in assessing the seriousness or quality of a company’s HRDD, grouped into six broad areas of company practice:

  1. Governance of human rights;
  2. Meaningful engagement with affected stakeholders;
  3. Identifying and prioritizing risks;
  4. Taking action on identified risks;
  5. Monitoring and evaluating progress in addressing risks;
  6. Providing and enabling remedy

Not all these features need to be present to judge HRDD to be meaningful or serious, yet where few of them are present, it is unlikely that HRDD will achieve its purpose in practice.

This draft is intended to inform a discussion about assessment by national regulators of company compliance with potential new mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence (mHREDD) legislation by:

  • Highlighting critical features of HRDD that are often overlooked or done poorly in practice by companies (such as meaningful stakeholder engagement);
  • Identifying key practices and behaviors needed for meaningful implementation of HRDD that can help in distinguishing better from poorer quality HRDD by going beyond the ‘observable basics’ of company practice;
  • Being relevant to companies of all sizes and sectors by highlighting features of HRDD that could be demonstrated by any company in a variety of ways.

It is not intended to:

  • Replace or dilute existing guidance on the process elements of HRDD;
  • Exclude consideration of authoritative sector-specific guidance by regulators where that is relevant to a company being assessed;  
  • Define leading practice in carrying out HRDD.

We welcome feedback on this discussion draft and will be consulting further on it during Q1 2021. Please direct your feedback and inquiries to: info [at] shiftproject [dot] org

Making Rights-Respecting Business Decisions in a COVID-19 World

Everywhere, human rights are at risk from the impacts of COVID-19. People around the world fear for their life and healthlivelihoodscivil liberties and privacy, to name just a few issues. At the same time, many businesses are facing existential threats, as they seek to survive or adapt to a new and unprecedented reality. As they make painful decisions, companies need to bring precision thinking to how their choices will impact the lives of people that work for, depend on, or are otherwise connected to their business.

This resource offers focuses on five approaches that companies can put in practice to ensure that they are making rights-respecting decisions:

  1. Apply the lens of vulnerability to prioritize action
  2. Involve relevant stakeholders in critical decision-making processes
  3. Use leverage with governments on policy responses
  4. Communicate your actions clearly
  5. Have honest decisions about risks that are baked into the business model

The last page on this resource is an annex that can help companies get started on identifying the increased or new human rights risks that arise as a consequence of the pandemic.

Respetar los Derechos Sindicales en las Cadenas Globales de Valor

Seguido, las empresas tienen dificultades para identificar e implementar acciones significativas que atiendan los riesgos a los derechos sindicales en sus cadenas globales de valor. Ello por distintos factores:

  • Externos, como los que surgen del contexto en el que operan y en el que se extienden sus cadenas de valor. Ello incluye las leyes y regulaciones, el estado de derecho, las prácticas sociales que enmarcan las percepciones culturales sobre los sindicatos y la capacidad local de sindicatos y empresas socias para llevar a cabo acciones en la práctica.
  • Modelos de negocio, que pueden resultar en riesgos exacerbados a los derechos sindicales si no son propiamente administrados. Ello incluye el tener insumos de mercados de alto riesgo (o bajo costo), el uso intensivo de trabajadores contratistas o temporales, y las propias práctiacas de adquisición de las empresas.
  • La cultura corporativa y las prácticas empresariales, lo que puede incluir suposiciones y actitudes hacia los sindicatos por parte de las oficinas centrales, así como debilidades en el proceso de debida diligencia.

En la parte 2.2 de esta publicación se incluye también una herramienta de diagnóstico, que puede servir para que las empresas entiendan cómo y dónde pueden existir los riesgos para los derechos sindicales. 

Asimismo, se delinean algunos ejemplos de pasos que pueden tomar las empresas dependiendo de los riesgos que existen, y ocho casos práticos de casos reales en los que otras empresas han logrado sobrepasar estos retos. 

Fulfilling the State Duty to Protect: A Statement on the Role of Mandatory Measures in a “Smart Mix”

There is a growing number of national and international debates around mandatory measures to ensure business respect for human rights, and specifically a) a binding international instrument on business and human rights and b) national legislation on mandatory human rights due diligence. In these debates, the UN Guiding Principles’ expectation of a “smart mix” of implementation measures is often cited. As a contribution to these discussions, Shift has developed the following statement on the role of mandatory measures in a “smart mix”.


The State Duty to Protect is not a passive duty, but a proactive one.

Under UN Guiding Principle 1, all states “must protect against human rights abuse within their territory and/or jurisdiction by third parties, including business enterprises”. This “requires taking appropriate steps to prevent, investigate, punish and redress human rights abuse through effective policies, legislation, regulations and adjudication”.

This should be understood as a proactive duty. States should actively assess the effectiveness of what is currently in place, understand what gaps there are, and identify ways to address them. Yet most “National Action Plans” on the UNGPs to date reflect a more passive approach; they are a catalogue of existing measures rather than robust assessments of what more is needed.


The State Duty to Protect is fulfilled through a smart mix of measures.

To fulfill their duty to protect, states will need to use a range of approaches. The commentary to UN Guiding Principle 3 elaborates on this when it says that states “should consider a smart mix of measures – national and international, mandatory and voluntary – to foster business respect for human rights.” States should go beyond enforcing existing laws to “periodically assess the adequacy of such laws and address any gaps” in light of evolving circumstances.


A smart mix of measures necessarily involves legislative and regulatory measures.

A truly “smart mix” means looking at all four aspects (national, international, mandatory and voluntary), not just the one or two that are most convenient or already in place. It follows, therefore, that the state duty to protect necessarily involves legislative and regulatory measures at the national level, and the supportive infrastructure (such as enforcement, incentives and guidance) needed to make them meaningful in practice. Without these, the UNGPs will never fulfill their true potential.

The UNGPs also clearly contemplate mandatory international measures as a natural part of this “smart mix”. Shift follows with interest the current discussion of a new treaty in this area.


Measures that involve Mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence are in line with the UNGPs, and there are strong reasons for states to consider them.

While the UNGPs do not demand that states adopt legislation requiring companies to carry out mandatory human rights due diligence (HRDD), clearly such legislation is entirely in line with the UNGPs.

Some elements of HRDD are already embedded in national laws, such as in health and safety regulations, environmental legislation, privacy laws or in some corporate reporting regimes. However, there are often strong reasons for states to also consider more comprehensive mandatory HRDD legislation.

In Shift’s experience, practical reasons to consider mandatory human rights due diligence can include:

  • The powerful effect it can have in driving top-level attention to human rights in companies, as well as engaging functions across the business;
  • Leveling the playing field across companies and sectors, including through engagement with business partners in a company’s value chain;
  • Obliging companies to consider the interests of stakeholders other than shareholders;
  • Incentivizing collaborative approaches to address systemic human rights risks; and
  • Enabling (where civil liability is included) a clear cause of action for individuals who are harmed to pursue remedy.

To be effective, such legislation should take account of critical aspects of the responsibility to respect. These include that:

  • It should not undermine the scope of the responsibility to respect, which extends throughout the value chain, even if liability is attached to a narrower set of relationships;
  • HRDD is a standard of conduct not result, meaning that mandatory measures should allow consideration of the quality of a company’s efforts to respect human rights; and
  • Meeting the responsibility to respect in practice will always involve going beyond compliance alone as good practice continues to evolve.