103 investors (representing US$5 trillion) called on governments to develop, implement, and enforce mandatory human rights due diligence

Anna Triponel

April 20, 2020

103 investors, representing US$5 trillion in assets under management, called this week “on all governments to develop, implement, and enforce mandatory human rights due diligence requirements for companies headquartered or operating within their own jurisdictions or, where appropriate, to further strengthen these regulatory regimes where they already exist.”

The statement, coordinated by the Investor Alliance for Human Rights, has been sent to government representatives in the European Union, the United States and Canada. Signatories include Legal & General Investment Management, Federated Hermes International, Aberdeen Standard Investments, Aviva Investors, BMO Global Asset Management, Robeco, and Achmea Investment Management.

The investors provide three reasons for why they call on governments to require companies to undertake robust human rights due diligence. Mandatory human rights due diligence is:

  1. Materially good for business, investors, and the economy. The statement makes the business case for mandatory human rights due diligence. It then lists the instances where institutional investors and business associations have explicitly supported mandatory human rights due diligence developments (in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Australia and the U.S.)
  2. Essential in creating uniformity and efficiency as an increasing number of governments are already taking this step. The statement lists the governments that have already created this legislation, noting that the “tide of government action on human rights has strongly turned toward this type of regulation.” In parallel, the investors report that recent findings (e.g. from the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark) show that free-rider companies are failing to conduct adequate human rights due diligence. “As such, companies and investors alike require policy coherence and a leveling of the playing field, where consistent expectations across sectors and geographies allow for more efficient and predictable risk management throughout complex value chains and investment portfolios.”
  3. A necessary component for investors to fulfill their own responsibility to respect human rights. The statement concludes that the investor responsibility to respect human rights is becoming increasingly recognized by investors and national governments, and enshrined in international and regional standards, and that “[f]inancial reporting and voluntary risk assessment processes fail to warn investors of” risks “of funding companies or projects linked to human rights abuses.”

“Grave human rights abuses linked to business activities unfortunately persist each day, and government leadership on mandatory human rights due diligence is necessary to address the resulting risks to people and the convergent risks to business, investors, and national economies. Investors are ready to embrace our responsibility to respect human rights and do our part to meaningfully and urgently address these risks. We now need governments to compel companies to do the same.”                      

Statement of 103 investors coordinated by the Investor Alliance for Human Rights, The Investor Case for Mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence (21 April 2020)

“Human rights due diligence enables investors to adequately identify and assess salient human right risks across our investment portfolios. Importantly, it can help companies mitigate risks to employees, communities, and other stakeholders, manage potential financial and legal risks, and, ultimately, enhance shared value creation. It simply makes for better-run companies. And from a global perspective, mandatory human rights due diligence brings opportunities to improve economic productivity, reduce inequalities, and improve livelihoods – all integral to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”                      

Alice Evans, Co-Head and Managing Director, Responsible Investment at BMO Global Asset Management, Investors with US$5 trillion call on governments to institute mandatory human rights due diligence measures for companies (21 April 2020)

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