How to Use the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in Company Research and Advocacy: A Guide for Civil Society Organisations

The summary is excerpted from the resource.


The objective of this guide is to help civil society organisations (CSOs) use the Guiding Principles in their research, campaigns, engagement and advocacy towards companies and governments. By using the Guiding Principles in corporate research, campaigning, engagement and advocacy, CSOs can play an indispensable role as a countervailing power in confronting companies with their responsibility to respect internationally recognised human rights and ensuring they are held to account to meet their responsibility and improve their behaviour. Thereby, CSOs can contribute to making the Guiding Principles of real value for rights holders likely to be negatively affected by corporate activities.

Furthermore, by using the Guiding Principles in their research and advocacy and building up expertise, CSOs will be able to provide national and international authorities with useful insights in the strengths and weaknesses of the Guiding Principles, helping to improve the international business and human rights framework in due course.

Corporate Culture and Conflict Management in the Extractive Industries: A Study in Peru

This summary is excerpted from the resource.


This report aims to build knowledge about how corporate cultures in mining companies influence how well those companies manage conflict with local communities. It is the product of a joint research project undertaken by the Corporate Responsibility Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School and the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining at the Sustainable Minerals Institute of The University of Queensland in Australia. The research project recognized that factors external to mining companies can have a significant influence on the success of conflict management efforts; however, it started from a working assumption that the culture within a company also plays a substantial role. The project sought to test this assumption by identifying some general lessons that might be of use to mining and other extractive companies.

The research was conducted in two phases. Phase One engaged with experts in the extractive industries at the global level to identify aspects of corporate culture that appear critical to the effective management of conflict with communities. This report focuses on the results of Phase Two of the research, which took those global-level findings and tested them within the more focused context of the mining industry in Peru. Peru was selected since it is both a major center of mining and a country in which the lack of socio-economic advancement for mine-affected communities has led to protest, destruction of property and suspended mine development. The project involved a combination of desk-based research and interviews involving five participating mine sites: Antamina, La Granja, Pierina, Tintaya and Yanacocha/Conga. Interviewees included individuals from senior management, technical departments (exploration/construction/operations), procurement, government relations/ communications, legal, human resources, security, social/community relations and social development.

From the interviews, a number of factors emerged that appeared to be leading determinants of the participating sites’ ability to manage conflict with communities effectively. These factors, or themes, generally corroborated findings from Phase One of the research. These included:

  • Company attitudes to community relationships and conflict management
  • Modes of engagement with communities
  • The internal influence of Community Relations staff
  • Corporate structures and hierarchy
  • Staff attitudes: hiring and training
  • The role of formal processes
  • Assessing social performance
  • The role of the Legal function

There was a strong recognition across all five sites of the importance of good community relationships and the effective management of conflict for success in mining in Peru. In some instances, this view had been informed by experiences of major conflict at the sites in question; in others, by the broader reality of frequent social conflict related to mining in Peru. This recognition was apparent across different functions and departments, and up to the most senior levels. However, there were real differences in how this recognition affected company practices.

Most sites had elevated the leadership level of the Community Relations function or were about to do so; evidence from the research underlined that this elevation in formal status is but one step. The fundamental shift in approaches — and progress in managing conflict — only really occurred when both senior management and technical staff were prepared to act on advice coming from Community Relations. This required an ability on the part of the Community Relations team to ‘translate’ the rationale for addressing community needs into terms that made sense to senior management and technical staff. It also required the Community Relations staff to build trust in their skills and judgment within the company, much as they had to do with communities. As such, it showed the task of stakeholder engagement to be as much inward-facing as outward-facing.

The various sites included in this report used a broad range of approaches to building relationships and trust with communities through engagement. Some approaches were focused on ‘educating’ communities on technical ‘facts,’ while others were built around two-way dialogue or shared, participatory processes. Based on interviewees’ own perceptions of what was proving successful, the optimal approaches appeared to be those that were least ‘owned’ by the company alone, and least ‘transactional’ in their objectives (that is, not timed around or predicated primarily on a desire by the company to extract an agreement from a community).

While the model of “dialogue tables” was challenged by some interviewees, it became apparent that they used the term to denote bilateral engagements established by the company to negotiate a solution to a problem with a community. In contrast, interviewees who reported success with dialogue tables viewed them as platforms co-owned with communities and other stakeholders, and facilitated (at least at key points) by a neutral third party trusted by all involved. See our related video looking at a specific community in Peru impacted by activities at a copper mine, and how they used dialogue tables to resolve conflict.

The research also highlighted the need for any mining company to have not only the right people and management processes in place, but to understand how the two interact. Without good processes to retain institutional knowledge, keep track of commitments to communities, and regularize successful methods for engagement, the success of a company in managing community relationships could become dependent on individual staff and change rapidly if those staff left. That said, the possibility for bureaucratic processes to exacerbate tensions and conflict with communities was also apparent. In a context where the time in which communities want responses on significant issues is frequently shorter than the time desired by any large company to consider the issues properly, the interviews highlighted a need for innovative procedural approaches that can narrow or offset that disconnect.

The interviews confirmed wider research evidence that companies in the industry do not generally measure and aggregate the actual costs they incur as a result of conflict with communities. While some ‘headline’ costs may be apparent, they are also often viewed as unlikely to occur. Meanwhile, more routine costs are overlooked, including management time, poor staff morale and retention, or harm to the company’s reputation that seeds future crises or affects the chances of gaining future contracts, permits and partnerships. This underappreciation of costs was seen to raise the risk of undervaluing the role, skills and contribution of Community Relations staff. Subsequent to this report, extensive research was conducted on the cost of conflict with communities in the extractives sector; see that report and its findings in our library.

There was limited evidence from this research of the extent to which corporate structures and hierarchy might have an effect on efforts to build a corporate culture at site level that enables effective conflict management. However, there appeared to be some degree of trade-off between a mine with a strongly hierarchical structure on the one hand and strong cross-functional collaboration to manage community relationships on the other. To learn more about the importance of cross-functional management, see our resources on embedding as part of implementing the Guiding Principles for companies.

When it came to the role of the Legal function, findings from the first phase of the project – that in-house counsel could be quick to take a defensive or confrontational approach when faced with escalating conflict from communities – were not corroborated by the evidence in Peru. In general, legal personnel themselves took the strong view that almost any outcome was better than a lawsuit, and tended to be actively supportive of strong community relations functions and dialogue-based approaches to dispute resolution. 

Corporate-Community Dialogue: Documentary Series

Corporate-Community Dialogue: An Introduction from ACCESS Facility on Vimeo.

About the Series

This documentary series looks at how companies and communities have resolved disputes over corporate activities on three specific projects in Nigeria, Peru and the Philippines. The series includes one overview film of all the stories, and one film per story. These films tell the story of what happened on the ground in the words of the people who experienced it – the local community, the company and the dialogue facilitators that were asked to help.

In all three films, we hear stories from companies and communities that have found themselves in varying degrees of conflict and looked for a way out through dialogue. In each instance, the parties in conflict used a neutral third-party mediator to help them craft a process through which they could address concerns and progressively resolve their core conflicts.

Each film is about 40 minutes and they are hosted by ACCESS Facility. The individual films share the following stories:

Company-Community Dialogue: An Introduction: provides an overview of all three stories and finds common themes. Click embedded video above or follow this link to view directly on Vimeo.

Making Monkey Business: Building Company/Community Dialogue in the Philippines shares the story of a dispute resolution process with communities that were impacted by the building of the Ambuklao and Binga hydroelectric power plants in the Benguet Province of the Philippines. The mediated dialogue was facilitated by the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsmanof the World Bank Group and the mediation was conducted by the Conflict Resolution Group in the Philippines. Click embedded video below or follow this link to view directly on Vimeo.

Putting Ourselves in their Shoes: The Dialogue Table of Tintaya tells of the rising resentments among indigenous community members about a copper mine in the Peruvian Andes initially owned by the government and then owned by BHP Billiton (and now by Glencore Xstrata). It relates the process by which non-governmental organizations such as Oxfam Australia, Oxfam America, CooperAccion and Corecami entered the picture, and the important roles they played in helping give birth to the process and supporting the communities’ ability to engage effectively. Click embedded video below or follow this link to view directly on Vimeo.

The Only Government We See: Building Company-Community Dialogue in Nigeria tells the story of the negotiation of General Memoranda of Understanding (GMOUs) between Chevron and communities in the Niger Delta around its facilities. The process began after violent conflict in the region in 2003 led to the withdrawal of the company and the destruction of property, including schools and hospitals the company had built for communities. The film relates the role played by the head of the New Nigeria Foundation, a local NGO that came in to mediate the dialogue and help build the foundations for increased trust between those involved and addresses how and why the communities decided to engage in the dialogue, what progress and challenges emerged along the way, and the outcomes that have been achieved. Click embedded video below or follow this link to view directly on Vimeo.

These films were produced by the Corporate Responsibility Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School on behalf of the mandate of the former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Business and Human Rights, Professor John Ruggie. The films were produced with the generous support of the Government of Norway, the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman of the World Bank Group, the International Bar Association and the Government of Germany. The films are MATCH productions.

In November 2012 the series won “best communication or publication” award at the biennial Centre for Effective Dispute Resolutions awards ceremony held in London.

The Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights: An Interpretive Guide

This guide is designed to support the effective implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. It provides additional background, detail and assistance in understanding the Guiding Principles, and complements the commentary contained in the Guiding Principles themselves. It defines key concepts, elaborates on the foundational and operational principles underlying the corporate responsibility to respect, and includes a series of questions and answers for businesses.

Principles for Responsible Contracts: Integrating the Management of Human Rights Risks Into State-Investor Contract Negotiations

This resource is based on extensive consultation during Ruggie’s UN mandate with government and company legal representatives involved in such negotiations, particularly from the African region. The summary is excerpted from the resource. We also recommend training materials related to this topic issued by the UN.


Every business venture has the potential to have positive and negative impacts on people and human rights – those rights and freedoms that the international community has agreed that people need in order to live with dignity. In some cases, where the potential positive and negative human rights impacts of a venture are direct and significant, managing human rights risks will be an essential consideration to be included at the earliest stages of the life cycle of the venture. This is the case where the project presents either large-scale or significant social, economic or environmental risks or opportunities, or involves the depletion of renewable or non-renewable natural resources.

In such cases, irrespective of the sector involved, the negotiation process between a host State and a business investor offers a unique opportunity to identify, avoid and mitigate human rights risks. This will help optimize the full range of benefits to be drawn from the investment and help ensure the potential negative impacts on people are avoided or mitigated. Moreover, these principles will help ensure that States maintain adequate policy space in the investment contract, including for the protection of human rights, while avoiding claims relative to the contract in binding international arbitration.

The 10 principles that can help guide the integration of human rights risk management into contract negotiations are listed below:

  1. Project negotiations preparation and planning: The parties should be adequately prepared and have the capacity to address the human rights implications of projects during negotiations.
  2. Management of potential adverse human rights impacts: Responsibilities for the prevention and mitigation of human rights risks associated with the project and its activities should be clarified and agreed before the contract is finalized.
  3. Project operating standards: The laws, regulations and standards governing the execution of the project should facilitate the prevention, mitigation and remediation of any negative human rights impacts throughout the life cycle of the project.
  4. Stabilization clauses: Contractual stabilization clauses, if used, should be carefully drafted so that any protections for investors against future changes in law do not interfere with the State’s bona fide efforts to implement laws, regulations or policies in a non-discriminatory manner in order to meet its human rights obligations.
  5. “Additional goods or service provision”: Where the contract envisages that investors will provide additional services beyond the scope of the project, this should be carried out in a manner compatible with the State’s human rights obligations and the investor’s human rights responsibilities.
  6. Physical security for the project: Physical security for the project’s facilities, installations or personnel should be provided in a manner consistent with human rights principles and standards.
  7. Community engagement: The project should have an effective community engagement plan through its life cycle, starting at the earliest stages.
  8. Project monitoring and compliance: The State should be able to monitor the project’s compliance with relevant standards to protect human rights while providing necessary assurances for business investors against arbitrary interference in the project.
  9. Grievance mechanisms for non-contractual harms to third parties: Individuals and communities that are impacted by project activities, but not party to the contract, should have access to an effective non-judicial grievance mechanism.
  10. Transparency/Disclosure of contract terms: The contract’s terms should be disclosed, and the scope and duration of exceptions to such disclosure should be based on compelling justifications.

UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

Table of Contents


  • Foundational principles
  • Operational principles
  • Foundational principles
  • Operational principles
  • Foundational principles
  • Operational principles

Piloting Principles for Effective Company-Stakeholders Grievance Mechanisms: A Report of Lessons Learned

This study reflects the findings of five on-the-ground pilot projects to examine what constitutes effective non-judicial grievance mechanisms. Its findings led to the eight principles of effectiveness for non-judicial grievance mechanisms, which are reflected in Guiding Principle 31 as the “effectiveness criteria.” The criteria are: legitimacy, accessibility, predictability, equitability, transparency, rights-compatibility, dialogue and engagement, continuous learning.

The summary below is excerpted from the resource.


This report sets out key lessons learned from a pilot project conducted in 2009-2010 to test the practical applicability of a set of principles for effective non-judicial grievance mechanisms that address complaints or disputes involving businesses and their stakeholders. The principles were developed by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises and set out in his reports to the Human Rights Council in 2008 (A/HRC/8/5) and 2009 (A/HRC/11/13).

The project was conducted on behalf of the Special Representative to help refine these principles in advance of their incorporation into a wider set of Guiding principles on business and human rights (A/HRC/17/31), which the Special Representative will present to the Human Rights Council in June 2011. The project focused on operational-level grievance mechanisms – that is, mechanisms developed by companies with/for stakeholders affected by their operations. The companies involved in the four main pilots to design or revise grievance mechanisms in line with the Special Representative’s principles were Carbones del Cerrejón, a coal mine in Colombia; Esquel Group, a Hong Kong-based garment company, working with its wholly-owned supplier in Viet Nam; Sakhalin Energy Investment Corporation, an oil and gas company in the Russian Federation; and Tesco Stores Ltd, a United Kingdom-based multinational supermarket chain, working with suppliers in South Africa. An adjunct project with Hewlett-Packard and two of its suppliers in China retrospectively analyzed their collaborative efforts to enhance suppliers’ grievance mechanisms and reviewed them in light of the Special Representative’s principles.

The purpose of the pilot project was to test the benefits of grievance mechanisms that are aligned with the Special Representative’s principles, and to learn lessons about how the principles could be further refined to reflect operational realities and enable their practical application. The extensive time spent in the process of designing or revising the grievance mechanisms meant that there was little time to monitor their operation in practice. Any such review will require further work in future. However, substantial lessons were gained from the processes undertaken. Those that are of most general relevance are summarized in this overarching report, while more specific and detailed learning is reflected in the individual reports of each project, which are attached in Annexes A to E.

  • Section I of this report expands on the background and purpose of the project, defines what is meant by “operational-level grievance mechanisms,” and sets out the principles that were tested.
  • Section II describes the methodology for the four main pilots (the separate methodology of the adjunct project is described in that specific report at Annex E).
  • Section III reflects cross-cutting lessons learned, setting them out under each principle in turn, and concluding with an explanation of how the principle was adjusted to reflect the learning (adjustments were limited to the extent that they had to be applicable, not only to operational-level mechanisms, but also to other kinds of non-judicial mechanisms covered by the principles).
  • Section IV offers a brief conclusion, and sets out the principles as revised.

Human Rights Translated: A Business and Reference Guide

This comprehensive, baseline resource for businesses lays out what human rights are and how businesses can impact them. With an effort to make language understandable for people working in companies, the guide includes case studies, quotes, suggested practical actions companies can take and links to further resources. It is published by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The resource complements the Guiding Principles by explaining the content of the “internationally recognized human rights” as referenced in the Guiding Principles. This guide was published before the Guiding Principles, but its explanations of internationally recognized human rights are of course still valid today. However, the suggested practical actions should be understood as having been developed prior to the standard set by the Guiding Principles.

This resource also provides a basis for shorter guidance developed by Shift and Mazars to support the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework.

Protect, Respect and Remedy: A Framework for Business and Human Rights

The summary is excerpted from the resource.


The international community is still in the early stages of adapting the human rights regime to provide more effective protection to individuals and communities against corporate-related human rights harm. This report to the Human Rights Council presents a principles-based conceptual and policy framework intended to help achieve this aim.

Business is the major source of investment and job creation, and markets can be highly efficient means for allocating scarce resources. They constitute powerful forces capable of generating economic growth, reducing poverty, and increasing demand for the rule of law, thereby contributing to the realization of a broad spectrum of human rights. But markets work optimally only if they are embedded within rules, customs and institutions. Markets themselves require these to survive and thrive, while society needs them to manage the adverse effects of market dynamics and produce the public goods that markets undersupply. Indeed, history teaches us that markets pose the greatest risks – to society and business itself – when their scope and power far exceed the reach of the institutional underpinnings that allow them to function smoothly and ensure their political sustainability. This is such a time and escalating charges of corporate-related human rights abuses are the canary in the coal mine, signalling that all is not well.

The root cause of the business and human rights predicament today lies in the governance gaps created by globalization – between the scope and impact of economic forces and actors, and the capacity of societies to manage their adverse consequences. These governance gaps provide the permissive environment for wrongful acts by companies of all kinds without adequate sanctioning or reparation. How to narrow and ultimately bridge the gaps in relation to human rights is our fundamental challenge.

The business and human rights debate currently lacks an authoritative focal point. Claims and counter-claims proliferate, initiatives abound, and yet no effort reaches significant scale. Amid this confusing mix, laggards – States as well as companies – continue to fly below the radar.

Some stakeholders believe that the solution lies in a limited list of human rights for which companies would have responsibility, while extending to companies, where they have influence, essentially the same range of responsibilities as States. For reasons this report spells out, the Special Representative has not adopted this formula. Briefly, business can affect virtually all internationally recognized rights. Therefore, any limited list will almost certainly miss one or more rights that may turn out to be significant in a particular instance, thereby providing misleading guidance. At the same time, as economic actors, companies have unique responsibilities. If those responsibilities are entangled with State obligations, it makes it difficult if not impossible to tell who is responsible for what in practice. Hence, this report pursues the more promising path of addressing the specific responsibilities of companies in relation to all rights they may impact.

There is no single silver bullet solution to the institutional misalignments in the business and human rights domain. Instead, all social actors – States, businesses, and civil society – must learn to do many things differently. But those things must cohere and become cumulative, which makes it critically important to get the foundation right.

Every stakeholder group, despite their other differences, has expressed the urgent need for a common conceptual and policy framework, a foundation on which thinking and action can build. 

The framework rests on differentiated but complementary responsibilities. It comprises three core principles:

  • the State duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business;
  • the corporate responsibility to respect human rights; and
  • the need for more effective access to remedies.

Each principle is an essential component of the framework: the State duty to protect because it lies at the very core of the international human rights regime; the corporate responsibility to respect because it is the basic expectation society has of business; and access to remedy, because even the most concerted efforts cannot prevent all abuse, while access to judicial redress is often problematic, and non-judicial means are limited in number, scope and effectiveness. The three principles form a complementary whole in that each supports the others in achieving sustainable progress.

Mapping Grievance Mechanisms in the Business and Human Rights Arena

Please note that this resource was published in 2008 and there have been a number of new non-judicial mechanisms developed since that time, and some of the mechanisms described in this resource have refined their processes. The summary here is excerpted from the resource.


This report examines the strengths and weaknesses of existing grievance mechanisms in order to highlight lessons to be drawn from their experience, consider how they might be improved and explore what model mechanisms might look like for the field of business and human rights.

This mapping sets out in summary form a range of existing grievance mechanisms from a variety of different contexts, whether industry or multi-industry, national, regional or international, private or public, based on law or voluntary standards. The aim here is to describe the mechanisms as factually as possible in order to provide a platform for further analysis as to how effective these mechanisms are and how well they are implemented in practice, but such judgments are not the purpose of this work.

The common denominator among the mechanisms is that they a) address the impacts of corporations, b) explicitly or implicitly reference human rights and c) are non-judicial. Their purpose is to find resolutions to grievances outside the judicial process for various reasons such as cost saving, time saving, a desire to avoid confrontation and a need to protect the integrity of an institution or initiative.

The report includes a review of the following grievance mechanisms:

Company Level

  • BTC Pipeline/BP, Azerbaijan
  • Gap Inc., Lesotho
  • Hewlett-Packard, Mexico
  • Xstrata Copper, Peru

Industry Level

  • Clear Voice Hotline
  • Fair Labor Association
  • Fair Wear Foundation
  • International Council of Toy Industries
  • Voluntary Principles Security & Human Rights
  • Workers Rights Consortium

Multi-Industry Level

  • Ethical Trading Initiative
  • Social Accountability International

National Level

  • National Human Rights Institutions: India, Kenya, New Zealand
  • Labor Dispute Systems: Cambodia, South Africa, United Kingdom

Regional Level

  • African Development Bank
  • Asian Development Bank
  • European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
  • Inter-American Development Bank

International Level

  • Global Union Federations/TNCs
  • International Labour Organization
  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development
  • United Nations Global Compact
  • World Bank Group – Office of the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman
  • World Bank Group – Inspection Panel