Ten December, Human Rights Day, is a good occasion to remember. UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights call businesses to communicate addressing human rights impacts, and informs that sustainability reporting is an effective tool in this endeavor. With Ten December approaching, the 7th UN Forum on Business and Human Rights discussed “Business respect for human rights – building on what works” in Geneva.
Participants at the UN Forum coincided in that while much progress has been made and good human rights reporting practice is emerging, there is still a gap between leading practice and how most businesses report on human rights due diligence.
The 2018 Corporate Human Rights Benchmark confirms this gap. Companies scored an average of 3.2 out of 10 in transparency – lacking willingness to disclose information, risking human rights. Companies’ lack of willingness can be attributed to the perception that disclosure leads to liability. In fact, experts agree that the opposite is the case: risk lies in non-disclosure.
Reporting needs to go beyond stating general policies and processes or other generic quantitative metrics. It must look at the company decision making processes that have an impact on human rights. For a meaningful reporting businesses need to explain the challenges faced, providing specific examples of policies and processes applied in practice. Organizations should also provide clear targets and goals to address their impacts. Finally, human rights due diligence should be reflected in reporting by making sure that human rights is an integral part of a report instead of a standalone piece.
A meaningful human rights reporting therefore gives businesses the opportunity to engage with other actors and understand why disclosures are needed, and what the business case for transparency truly is.