Memorandum submitted by GoodCorporation
GoodCorporation welcomes the enquiry by the
Joint Committee on Human Rights into the way in which businesses
can affect human rights both positively and negatively. As auditors
of responsible business practice, we have a clear insight into
the management practices that should be implemented by business
in order to guarantee that their corporate behaviour contributes
to the protection and preservation of human rights.
While Governments undoubtedly have the primary
responsibility for ensuring the basic human rights of citizens,
it is clear that business increasingly has a role to play. According
to the Center for Constitutional Rights, some of the worst perpetrators
of human rights abuses have been corporations.
There have been numerous voluntary initiatives
to establish guidelines for the human rights responsibilities
of companies. However, while co-operative standard-setting is
important, it has shortcomings, most notably the tendency towards
"lowest common denominator" results which concentrate
on what is acceptable, rather than what is actually required to
ensure the delivery of basic human rights. Voluntary initiatives
often leave out small companies, companies from developing countries,
state-owned companies and companies with poor human rights records
hoping to avoid scrutiny.
Both Amnesty International and the United Nations
are calling for binding legal standards for corporate accountability
for human rights. With prosecutions hitting the headlines, such
as the recent trial in New York of Royal Dutch Shell, business
itself cannot afford the reputational damage that results from
any complicity in human rights abuses in the communities where
they are located. More importantly, GoodCorporation believes that
there is a growing imperative for corporations to behave responsibly.
This is allied to the recognition that a good human rights record
can support improved business performance, which, in turn, will
contribute to the sustainable economic growth that is needed to
bring the global economy out of the current crisis.
GoodCorporation conducts independent and confidential
assessments of an organisations management practices and business
relationships. Since its launch in 2001, it has completed over
250 audits in more than 40 countries working across
a variety of industries including oil and gas, construction, pharmaceuticals,
media and telecommunications. Its clients include 11 FTSE
100 and four CAC40 organisations including GDF-SUEZ,
Total SA, British Land, BG plc, DHL, Shire plc, FTSE, Telefónica
Organisations are assessed against the GoodCorporation
Standard that was developed in conjunction with the Institute
of Business Ethics, or against the companies own code of conduct
or business principles. The GoodCorporation Standard is based
on a core set of principles that define a framework for responsible
management in any type of organisation. The Standard respects
human rights as defined by the United Nations Global Compact and
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Under each principle,
the Standard sets out management practices that can be assessed
to determine how well the organisation works in reality. The assessment
obtains feedback from employers, customers, suppliers, regulators
and shareholders. It also examines a company's commitment to the
wider community and the environment.
From these assessments, GoodCorporation can
identify the key areas of corporate responsibility for ensuring
basic human rights. We would argue that companies that abide by
the principles outlined below, taken from the GoodCorporation
Standard, would be adhering to appropriate due diligence processes
which would enable them to demonstrate to themselves and their
stakeholders that they respect human rights.
The GoodCorporation Standard outlines fundamental
principles which, when implemented, ensure that an organisation
is protecting and preserving the basic human right of its employees.
Rigorous organisations will provide clear and
fair terms of employment underpinned by a written policy (EMP1).
Freedom of association and organisation of employees is also respected
and guaranteed (EMP5)
The organisation will also undertake to provide
clean, healthy and safe working conditions (EMP8). A fair remuneration
policy will be implemented wherever it operates which takes into
account the local cost of living and market rates (EMP11). There
will be no discrimination on the grounds of disability, colour,
ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, political
or other opinion. It will encourage diversity and undertake to
recruit, promote and reward employees on the basis of merit alone
(EMP12). Sexual, physical or mental harassment or bullying of
employees will not be tolerated (EMP15). There should also be
clear policies and processes to ensure that only voluntary and
appropriately aged employees are employed (EMP16/17). Where employees
are working in parts of the world governed by an unstable regime,
there are a number of additional human rights requirements such
as the sensible management of security personnel and the establishment
of clear rules of interaction with local police and security forces.
It is also imperative that businesses manage
their relationships with their customers appropriately, with clear
policies and procedures openly in place to guarantee that their
human rights are also preserved.
Organisations which implement best practice
will be honest and fair in their dealings with customers, respecting
clearly outlined terms of business (CUS1). In addition an organisation
will also take all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the
products and services it provides (CUS11). It will also have a
rigorous process in place to ensure that no forms of bribery or
corruption of customers is permissible (CUS12).
A failure to manage the supply chain has led
to alleged breaches of human rights, particularly as regards to
the treatment of factory workers in developing countries or the
treatment of migrant labour within developed countries.
To demonstrate integrity in its relationships
with suppliers an organisation must have a clear and transparent
process for the selection of suppliers and contractors (SUP1).
It must implement a clear process to ensure that no form of bribery
and corruption of suppliers or contractors takes place (SUP8).
There must also be a clearly understood process in place which
informs suppliers and contractors about the organisation's responsible
business practices and encourages them to abide by these principles.
The organisation must be able to manage the employment, environmental
and ethical risks in its supply chain (SUP11). It should also
ensure that contractors working on its behalf have responsible
health and safety practices (SUP12).
Corporations have been rightly criticized for
damaging communities, charged with a variety of offences ranging
from dumping toxic waste to destroying rainforests or housing.
The GoodCorporation Standard states that an organisation should
"contribute to making the communities in which it operates
better places in which to live and do business."
A company adhering to best practice will ensure
that its plans and activities take into account the impact on
the communities in which it does business (COM1).
There should be a process in place to ensure
that there are no forms of bribery or corruption in relation to
public officials and public bodies (COM5). There must also be
a process to ensure that risks to public safety resulting from
the organisation's products and operations are minimized. This
should include engaging in meaningful dialogue with the community,
particularly where there may be concerns about its products, services
or operations (COM6)
GoodCorporation supports the Joint Committee
on Human Rights in its investigation into the responsibility of
businesses to respect human rights. It is time for both corporations
and Governments to take human rights in all areas of business.