Does ‘respect for human rights’ have a place on the balance sheet?

More and more, investors are looking for signs that show that businesses are accounting for their environmental and social impacts. There is growing pressure for companies to demonstrate that as they create financial value, they also consider the effect that they have on the planet and on people.

Yet, traditional financial accounts are not designed to accommodate the value of respect for human rights. The closest we have is environmental, social and governance (ESG) indicators, which are a good start but -for the most part- still have a long way to go. Negative impacts -that is, the most serious ways in which a company can impact people- are rarely and barely dealt with in how social performance is measured.

Is there a better way? Can we offer investors improved tools to understand whether a company is truly improving its human rights record? Can businesses have more effective tools to go beyond profit-driven balance sheets, to account for people’s dignity?

Modeling human rights issues in accounting terms

We are exploring the fundamental change that is needed in the field of accounting in order to reflect the value for society and companies of business conduct that respects human rights. We aim to contribute to progress in accounting for the value of business respect for human rights in measurable and generally applicable ways.

We aim to identify human rights issues that could be modeled in accounting terms, on which further efforts could then build. Two leading candidates for this approach are living wages and land tenure.

We are conducting research and expert consultations to identify what kind of process might best enable an informed, inclusive and productive conversation that could start to develop such a model for living wages.

Please browse our outputs and discussion papers below to learn more about this area of work.

Latest Resources

Research and Outputs on Accounting for Respect
2 Resources
October 2019 | Discussion Paper

Accounting for Companies’ Human Rights Performance

While there have been a growing number of initiatives in recent years to evaluate companies’ environmental and social performance, they have dealt at best tangentially with the ways in which business responses to human rights risks can destroy, protect or create value for both business and society. Yet no aspect of business practice is more […]

June 2019

Expert Roundtable on Business, Human Rights and Accounting: A Summary Report

This document is a summary of the expert roundtable discussion on business, human rights and accounting that took place on April 24, 2019, in collaboration with Manchester Business School, St Andrew’s University, and hosted by the Institute for Chartered Accountants of England and Wales.

About the Valuing Respect Project