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.

Dissecting Human Rights Disclosure: a Tool for Investors

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.

Dissecting Human Rights Disclosure: a Tool for Investors

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

This resource is also available in ENGLISH.

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

Ceci est la première partie d’un rapport en deux phases. Pour la deuxième partie, cliquez ici.

This report is also available in English.

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

This is a two-part study. For Phase 2, please click here.

Ce rapport est aussi disponible en version française.

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.

Handbook for Lawyers on Business and Human Rights

This handbook, published by the International Bar Association, aims to assist lawyers who seek to integrate business and human rights considerations into the advice they provide to clients in relation to M&A and commercial transactions. The Handbook brings together in one place a diverse collection of educational resources relating to the roles and responsibilities of legal practitioners with respect to business and human rights, including background context and explanation, case scenarios, discussion exercises, frequently asked questions (FAQs), sample checklists and further reading and resources.

The Handbook builds upon the IBA’s Business and Human Rights Guidance for Bar Associations and its Practical Guide on Business and Human Rights for Business Lawyers (Guidance documents), adopted by the IBA Council in 2015 and 2016 respectively. The Guidance documents aim to support the work of bar associations and law societies with respect to business and human rights, and explore the implications of the UN Guiding Principles for lawyers. In late 2016, the IBA’s Business and Human Rights Working Group issued a Supplementary Reference Annex which provides more detail to support the Guidance documents.

Shift’s John Sherman supported the development of this guidance.

Shift Submission on Potential Modern Slavery Act in Australia

Below is an excerpt from our submission to the Australian Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. Download the PDF to view the entire submission.

Also seeOur explanation of how the UK Modern Slavery Act compares to the expectations of the UN Guiding Principles

Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
PO Box 6021
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

May 19, 2017

Dear Committee Members,

We are pleased to write to you in response to the opportunity to comment on a potential Modern Slavery Act in Australia to tackle a pervasive and severe human rights abuse, which can often be involved with business activity. With the International Labour Organization estimating that 20.9 million people around the world are subjected to forced labor, with 90% of those exploited in the private economy, your leadership in initiating this inquiry is both welcome and timely.

Shift is the leading center of expertise on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the authoritative global standard on business and human rights, unanimously endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011. As a non-profit organization chaired by the author of the Guiding Principles, former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Prof. John Ruggie, we work with businesses, governments, investors, regulators, civil society and other key stakeholders around the world to put the Guiding Principles into practice.

Given our experience, our submission will focus on the effectiveness of The Transparency in Supply Chains provision in the United Kingdom’s Modern Slavery Act (Section 54) and how the introduction of a similar measure in Australia could build on the strengths of that provision while also ensuring greater alignment with the Guiding Principles in the actions that businesses are expected to take. Specifically, a Modern Slavery Act in Australia should:

  1. Replicate the requirement in the UK Act for board level approval of, and a director’s signature on, a company’s slavery and human trafficking statement;
  2. Ensure that the senior level attention brought to the issue of modern slavery by this requirement supports the broader goal of businesses introducing and strengthening human rights due diligence processes that identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address all of their leading human rights risks, not only modern slavery. The Act should clarify that due diligence processes should focus on impacts in a company’s operations and business relationships throughout its value chain, not just on impacts at the level of first-tier suppliers;
  3. Ensure that businesses report on their broader human rights due diligence processes in their modern slavery and trafficking statements. The Act should highlight the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework as practical guidance for companies on how to meet the reporting requirement and ensure they are providing meaningful information when doing so…