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Governments and Companies Make Public Disclosures on Business and Human Rights
By James Griffitts, Contributor

New interactive platforms released by the Business and Human Rights center disclose actions taken by 94 companies and 41 governments on the impacts of business on human rights.

The organization made specific inquiries regarding human rights to more than 100 governments and 180 companies, with a response rate of 40% and 52% respectively. The goal of the platforms is to promote transparency in business and inform consumers about the human rights policies pursued by all participating governments.

Human rights, corporate responsibility, governmentDisclosures showed that the UN guiding principles on business and human rights have led to concrete improvements with regard to human rights around the world, but have left much more to be done. Companies that responded—a regionally diverse group including Coca-Cola, China National Offshore Oil Corporation, and Telefonica—include 34 of the 50 largest global companies.

Respondents indicated that complex supply chains and poor government enforcement made action on human right issues difficult. Response from retail and apparel companies was low, around 25%; while food and beverage companies approached a 75% response rate. Many state-owned extraction companies also failed to respond to the Business and Human Rights Center. Recent action taken by Apple has begun to improve conditions at that company’s supplier facilities—though Apple has not yet responded to the Business and Human Rights Center inquiries.

Governments which responded included many EU members (71% of member states) as well as other countries already active on the issue of human rights, including Brazil, the UK, and the U.S. Countries like Angola, Japan, Israel, and Myanmar, which are still in the initial phase of human rights policy development, also responded. Transparency in this arena is hampered significantly by the fact that many countries with large and globally important economies did not respond, including China, India, Russia, and Canada, as well as most or all companies within these countries.

The United Nations has pushed for the development of National Action plans on human rights. Though only seven countries have implemented a plan so far, many more are in development. In addition, many respondent countries point to legislative actions which have substantially advanced the cause of Human Rights.

From among respondents, both businesses and governments indicated a desire to make progress on human rights, and both groups pointed to each other as an obstacle in the implementation of widespread policy changes. Human rights advancement will require governments and companies to work with each other and present a united front against the problem.


At First Affirmative, we understand that the ways we save, spend, and invest can dramatically influence both the fabric and consciousness of society. We believe that in addition to the benefits of ownership, investors bear responsibility for the impact our money has in the world. Are you making conscious decisions about the impact of your consumer purchase and investment decisions?

Mention of specific companies or securities should not be considered an endorsement or a recommendation to buy or sell that security. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Posted: March 18, 2015