Adding Human Rights to the Shopping Cart

Online shopping is booming. In the UK in 2019, average weekly online retail sales rose from £1.45billion in 2019 to £2.2billion in May 2020. Retailers have struggled to keep up with demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, comparing it to the Black Friday and Christmas rush periods. A critical part of the online shopping value chain are logistics companies who fulfill retailers’ delivery to consumers. The industry is fast-changing but many logistics companies rely on couriers who are often self-employed, not provided holiday or sick pay and face fines or don’t get paid at all if an item is not delivered.

Reasons why couriers are particularly vulnerable to harm

Longer delivery windows enable better planning and forecasting, provided that retailers pass on the additional time to their logistics providers, who use it to support couriers. While some logistics providers pay couriers a premium to deliver high-value items, the delivery of these items can also place additional pressures on them. Self-employed couriers tend to only be paid if the item is delivered, which can delay or dilute payment if the courier must make multiple trips.

Shift – through it’s Valuing Respect Project – partnered with the Behavioral Science Group at Warwick Business School to see if behavioral science could suggest some ways to nudge consumers towards longer delivery windows that could reduce pressures on couriers.

Testing Ways to Nudge Consumer Behavior

With that in mind, we ran an online shopping simulation experiment with 2,500 regular online shoppers in the UK. Participants were asked to imagine they were buying a low-value (book), medium-value (coat) and high-value (laptop) product. They were then asked to select their delivery preference for each. Participants were randomized into different groups and shown a range of delivery options, including:

Same-Day DeliveryNex-Day Delivery2-3 Days3-5 Days
£6.49£4.99£1.99Free

The control group received no nudge and acted as a point of reference to compare the effectiveness of the groups receiving the nudges. Participants in this group saw a list of delivery options from fast to slow, with the fastest option as the default. This mirrored how many popular online retailers present delivery options. Each of the other groups saw the same list of delivery options as the control group combined with a different “nudge,” as we tested how best to encourage consumers to choose “3-5 day” delivery instead of “same day” delivery. The nudges Group 33 Created with Sketch. ( A nudge is a change in choice architecture to influence behavior and decisions in ways that are easy and cost-free and that retain freedom of choice. ) were:

Decoy

Decoy

Consumers were given an additional 12-14 day option, in order to make 3-5 days appear more reasonable.

Default

Default

The slowest delivery option (3-5 days) was pre-selected.

Empathy

Empathy

The consumer was shown a picture of a courier with a message about how their choice would affect them.

Ordering

Ordering

The delivery options were reversed, from longest to soonest, keeping the “same day” option pre-selected.

Recommended

Recommended

A message was added saying “Standard 3-5 day delivery is recommended by the Good Courier Network, an alliance of delivery providers who commit to responsible working practices for their drivers”.

Social

Social

A message was added saying, “Over 80% of people who purchase this item choose the Standard ‘3-5 day’ delivery option”.

WATCH | A WEBINAR WITH THE BEHAVIORAL SCIENTISTS BEHIND OUR ONLINE SHOPPING EXPERIMENT

Key Findings

Our starting point was the control group, where 18% of consumers chose the free, “3-5 day” delivery option. Our experiment then tested how we could bring this number down by nudging consumers. The graph below shows how nudges were effective in lowering the 18% by up to 4 points:

How Nudges Decrease the Number of Consumers Who Opt for Faster Delivery Options

0.0 5.0 10.0 15.0 20.0
18.0
Control
17.0
Decoy
17.0
Default
15.0
Social
14.0
Ordering
14.0
Empathy
14.0
Recommend
1. Consumers Want More Expensive Items to Arrive Sooner

As the item value increases, fewer consumers choose the free delivery option and more of them go for same-day delivery, even if they have to pay an additional £ 6.49.

Percentage of Consumers Who Chose the Free, “3-5 Day” Delivery Option
Percentage of consumers willing to pay £6.49 to receive their product the day they ordered it
2. The effectiveness of the nudges appears to be dependent on the value of the purchased product

Different nudges were more or less effective depending on what consumers were buying. For instance, when consumers were buying a laptop, they were more susceptible to change their behavior with the ’empathy’ nudge; however, when they were buying a coat, they were more responsive to ordering and recommendation. Interestingly, no nudge had a statistically significant effect on consumers buying the low-ticketed item, which was a book. This is not surprising as data confirmed that people are unwilling to pay for smaller value items to be delivered.

How nudges affected consumer behavior depending on the product they were buying
Increase in Percentage of Consumers Who Chose the Free, “3-5 Day” Option
Laptop
+6%
MOST EFFECTIVE NUDGE:
EMPATHY
+6%
Coat
+6%
MOST EFFECTIVE NUDGES:
Ordering and Recommendation
+6%
Book
+0%
MOST EFFECTIVE NUDGES:
No nudge made a statistically significant difference
+0%

It may be that buying an expensive, long-term investment item such as a laptop triggers more analytical thinking and makes the consumer more receptive to the reasoning in the message from the courier. 

3. Several nudges that are effective in other contexts, didn’t seem to alter consumer behavior. 

Some nudges did not have a significant effect on any of the three products. For instance, changing the delivery option that appeared by default did not significantly alter consumer choice. This was particularly surprising. Defaults are well-established, powerful nudges in behavioral science and in real-world settings. However, in this case, consumers chose to actively move away from the default to select other options.

4. Consumers who identify as women and are 35 or older were more likely to choose the free, “3-5 day” delivery option.

Across the items, consumers who identified as women were 64% more likely to actively select “standard delivery” when purchasing the book than those who identified as men. Age also played a role in consumer behavior. For instance, compared to consumers aged 18-34, those aged 35 and over were 57-80% more likely to choose “3-5 day” delivery

5. Shoppers may claim to be ethical consumers. That doesn’t necessarily reflect in their behavior.

Almost half of the consumers (48.2%) said they agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “I consider myself an ethical consumer.” This was particularly relevant in the case of consumers with higher income and younger consumers. However, their behavior showed no difference in actuality from consumers with lower income or older consumers.

So, what does this mean for a business?

  1. By simply changing the order of how delivery options are presented, retailers can significantly impact the decisions that consumers make.

Changing the order of delivery options led to a decrease in “same day” delivery and a significant increase in “3-5 day” delivery. For the coat, “same day” delivery dropped from 3% in the control group to 0.8%. And “3-5 day” delivery jumped from 85% in the control group to 91% in the order group. 

Changing the order is an inexpensive, easy to implement solution that businesses should consider.

  1. When the price tag is high, empathy is key.

High-ticket items — such as a laptop, are critical to nudge given their potential impact on couriers (a book may be posted through letterboxes, while a laptop will need a signature). Simply showing a humanizing picture of a courier with a message that encourages consumers to consider how their choice could place a burden on them appeared to trigger a more reflective, analytical thought process that leads consumers to choose a longer delivery window. 

  1. Men and young consumers are less likely to choose delivery options that are better for couriers. We need more research to know how to change that.

More research could help us better understand how certain nudges could be tailored to different demographic groups, in order to increase the number of consumers who choose the “3-5 day” delivery option.

  1. Measuring behavior, and not just stated preferences or attitudes, is critical. 

In this experiment, participants were fairly likely to describe themselves as ethical consumers, however, this did not correlate to their actual behavior in all cases. We need to look at what people actually do, not just what they say they will do. Focusing on real-world behavior and decisions is the only way of understanding whether our interventions work.   


Over the last few years, Shift has engaged with UK retailers, logistics providers and other stakeholders on the full spectrum of human rights challenges in final mile delivery in the UK. One driver of these challenges is customer choice when buying online and this experiment focuses specifically on the ways that consumers can be nudged to make more responsible decisions in relation to online delivery. A future Shift publication will address the wider human rights issues in final mile delivery and the ways that retailers, logistics providers, trade unions and Government can play a role in building a rights-respecting logistics sector in the UK in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Black Lives Matter: Putting Human Rights at the Heart of Corporate Responses

All businesses have a responsibility under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to take action to respect human rights in connection with their own operations and their extended value chain. This responsibility is a globally acknowledged and expected standard of conduct that is increasingly reflected in national laws, the expectations of investors, NGO and trade union advocacy, the standards set by influential industry bodies and the commitments of companies themselves. In the US, the Department of State actively promotes the UN Guiding Principles to US companies.

We see three main ways in which companies need to grapple with these human rights harms – both the immediate risks to protestors as well as the underlying inequalities that the BLM movement is raising.

These are: 

  1. Connections to short-term risks to protestors’ safety and freedom of speech
  2. Connections between a company’s own operations and racial discrimination over the long-term
  3. Company involvement in broader advocacy on BLM policy goals

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.

Efforts to Tackle Gender-Based Impacts

Increasingly, investors are becoming interested in understanding to what extent companies are respecting human rights, and whether their efforts are likely to improve the lives of affected people. A good place to start is by reading a company’s human rights disclosure. But company reports are often hard to analyze.  On the surface, many companies will seem to be doing the right thing. But, how can investors tell whether what they are reading is meaningful and in line with what the UN Guiding Principles expect? This collection of resources was designed by Shift to help investors apply a people-centered approach to gain deeper insights from company disclosure.

In particular, this resource uses excerpts from companies’ reporting on their efforts to tackle gender-based impacts.  In particular, it looks at: 

  • Whether a company’s disclosure indicates that it sees gender impacts as relevant and important for its business;
  • Whether a company’s disclosure suggests it has real insight into women’s experience in the workplace;
  • Whether a company’s disclosure suggests it is alert to other dimensions of gender-based discrimination.

This may also be a useful tool for practitioners within businesses who want to improve how they report on these issues, and for other stakeholders who are interested in analyzing and assessing the quality of a company’s human rights disclosure.

Engagement with Vulnerable Stakeholders

Increasingly, investors are becoming interested in understanding to what extent companies are respecting human rights, and whether their efforts are likely to improve the lives of affected people. A good place to start is by reading a company’s human rights disclosure. But company reports are often hard to analyze.  On the surface, many companies will seem to be doing the right thing. But, how can investors tell whether what they are reading is meaningful and in line with what the UN Guiding Principles expect? This collection of resources was designed by Shift to help investors apply a people-centered approach to gain deeper insights from company disclosure.

In particular, this resource uses excerpts from companies’ reporting on their engagement with vulnerable stakeholders.  We have selected five excerpts from companies that have generally taken a forward position on business and human rights and are considered leaders in reporting within their sector. We provide a brief analysis of each excerpt highlighting strengths in the insights it offers and noting elements that could make it stronger.

This may also be a useful tool for practitioners within businesses who want to improve how they report on these issues, and for other stakeholders who are interested in analyzing and assessing the quality of a company’s human rights disclosure.

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. 

Let’s Talk Mandatory Measures: Supporting a Meaningful Discussion Among all Stakeholders

Under Pillar 1 of the UN Guiding Principles, all states “must protect against human rights abuse within their territory and/or jurisdiction by third parties, including business enterprises”. To do so, states “should consider a smart mix of measures – national and international, mandatory and voluntary – to foster business respect for human rights.”

Yet despite this encouragement to consider them, mandatory measures have not been a central part of the mix considered by states in the initial years of UNGPs implementation, outside of certain reporting requirements. That is now changing, particularly in Europe. A growing number of states are actively considering the use of mandatory due diligence measures to advance business respect for human rights.

In France, the Netherlands, Germany, Finland, the UK, Norway and Switzerland, we see governments and legislatures adopting or exploring mandatory measures as part of a mix of policy tools to incentivize business respect for human rights. In a growing number of cases, these measures go beyond reporting obligations to encompass comprehensive human rights due diligence. Continue reading…





“The UNGPs always envisaged that states would adopt a smart mix of measures – voluntary and mandatory – to ensure that businesses respect human rights. We’ve heard the phrase a lot over the last eight years, but it’s mostly been used to describe voluntary measures and states have generally been less willing to explore the mandatory part of the picture. That is now starting to change. As the company, government and civil society voices highlighted here show, there is a growing consensus that we need to get better at talking about what mandatory measures could look like. At Shift, we have made it a priority to support this conversation.” 

Rachel Davis – Vice President of Shift   

Human Rights Reporting in the Canadian Mining Sector

In January 2018, Canada’s Ministry of Trade announced the creation of an independent ombudsman—the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE)—to investigate human rights abuses connected to Canadian corporate activity abroad. Additionally, the Ministry enacted a multi-stakeholder Advisory Body to the government and CORE to advise on responsible business conduct abroad.

In light of these developments and the mining sector’s human rights track record, our team has engaged in research analyzing the human rights disclosure of a group of 18 Canadian mining companies (traditional mining companies, along with a number of streaming and royalty companies). Using Shift’s unique maturity methodology, our research revealed strengths and weaknesses of the sector’s reporting trends, which informed our key recommendations. However, the findings and recommendations of this report may have wider-reaching implications for mining companies beyond Canada as well. Undoubtedly, analysis of the Canadian mining sector’s human rights disclosure can be a significant entry point for addressing human rights disclosure, and underlying human rights performance, of the mining industry globally.

Reporting et Droits de l’Homme en France: Phase I (FR)

Dans le contexte de la nouvelle loi sur le devoir de vigilance, “Reporting et Droits de l’Homme en France” de Shift vise à évaluer dans quelle mesure la nouvelle législation française rapproche les entreprises des attentes en matière de reporting définies par les Principes directeurs des Nations Unies relatifs aux entreprises et aux droits de l’homme.  Ce premier rapport analyse la maturité du reporting sur les droits de l’homme publié avant la sortie des plans de vigilance, en examinant les informations de 2017 et début 2018. Ce rapport établit une base de référence en fonction de laquelle nous évaluerons les améliorations. 

Ce premier rapport analyse la maturité du reporting sur les droits de l’homme publié avant la sortie des plans de vigilance, en examinant les informations de 2017 et début 2018. Ce rapport établit une base de référence en fonction de laquelle nous évaluerons les améliorations. 

Human Rights Reporting in France: Phase I (EN)

In the context of the new Duty of Vigilance Law, Shift’s “Human Rights Reporting in France” aims to evaluate the extent to which the new French legislation brings companies closer to the reporting expectations that were set by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

In Part I, Shift analyzes the maturity of human rights reporting pre plan de vigilance, by examining information from 2017 and early 2018. This report establishes a baseline against which we will evaluate improvement.