Human Rights

Businesses are increasingly under scrutiny for their human rights impacts, and there is growing momentum to adopt a human-centred approach to due diligence and the understanding of risk in global supply and value chains. The private sector can impact human rights, both directly and indirectly and there is a strong moral and commercial imperative to ensure those impacts are positive.

UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

The UNGPs provide conceptual and operational clarity on the steps states and companies should take to prevent, address, and remedy human rights abuses resulting from business activities.

While legally non-binding, the UNGPs draw upon existing (international and domestic law) obligations, standards, and practices for states and business enterprises vis-à-vis human rights. Since their adoption in 2011, the UNGPs have received wide endorsement and broad consensus among businesses, international and regional organisations, financial institutions, states, and other stakeholders all over the world.

The UNGPs rest upon three pillars:

  1. The state duty to protect against business-related human rights abuses;
  2. The corporate responsibility to respect human rights;
  • The access to effective remedy for the victims of business-related human rights abuses.

Under the UNGPs, all companies – irrespective of their size, sector, operational context, ownership, and structure – are expected to respect (i.e., refrain from violating) all internationally recognised human rights in all circumstances. In fact, while companies can make a positive contribution towards supporting human rights, they can also negatively affect, through both their own activities and their business relationships, people’s enjoyment of human rights, such as the right to life, the right to education, the right to freedom of expression, the right to privacy, and the right to equality and non-discrimination.

The UN Global Compact Network UK’s Business and Human Rights workstream aims to support business in ensuring that they adhere to human rights principles along their supply chains. There is a focus on supporting businesses in actioning the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in their human rights due diligence journeys, and in fulfilling SDG 8.7 to end modern slavery, human trafficking, and child labour. In implementing the principles, businesses will also be able to take effective action on SDG 1 no poverty, SDG 5 gender equality, and SDG 10 reduced inequalities.


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Benafsha Delgado
Head of Programme, Social Sustainability