Our key takeaway: We have no time to lose in raising the ambition and increasing the pace of implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The UN Working Group highlights a number of urgent priorities for the next decade including making business respect for human rights a core element of just transition, and using the UNGPs as the framework for companies seeking to inequalities and realize a just transition and a sustainable future for all.
The UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights (UNWG) published ‘UNGPs 10+: A Roadmap for the Next Decade of Business and Human Rights’ which builds on its stocktaking published in June 2021 to offer forward-looking recommendations for the next decade:
- “Eight action areas for moving faster and with greater ambition to support the overall urgent need for more coherent action”: the UN Working Group underscores the need now “to raise the ambition and increase the pace of implementation, to improve coherence and create greater impact.” The UN Working Group provides eight action areas, with a number of goals within each one. The eight areas are: (1) UNGPs as a compass for meeting global challenges, (2) State duty to protect, (3) Business responsibility to respect, (4) access to remedy, (5) more and better stakeholder engagement, (6) more and better leverage to drive faster change, (7) more and better tracking of progress, and (8) more and better international cooperation and implementation support.
- “Make business respect for human rights a core element of just transition and sustainable development strategies”: the UN Working Group dedicates its first goal to just transition. Specifically, within the first action area of UNGPs as a compass for meeting global challenges, the Working Group underscores the need to “[m]ake business respect for human rights a core element of just transition and sustainable development strategies, by applying all three pillars of the UNGPs.” More specifically, the Working Group notes that “[t]he UNGPs and their key concepts of human rights due diligence, meaningful stakeholder engagement and the need for remediating harms to human rights provide a powerful normative and practical tool for States, businesses and other stakeholders in leveraging the great potential of responsible business as a core component of tackling inequalities and realizing a just transition and a sustainable future for all – including in the context of ‘building back better’ from the COVID-19 crisis.” The Working Group makes clear that one of the values of using the three pillars of the UNGPs reside in how they “clearly define the respective complementary roles of States and businesses.”
- Focus is on collective action, coherence and alignment, business model changes, remedy, stakeholder engagement and shapers of business practice: The UN Working Group also places the spotlight on a number of areas that it calls on governments, businesses, civil society and the UN to prioritise. The UNWG delves into the need to “[e]mbed human rights due diligence in corporate governance and business models”; “[c]hallenge business practices that are inconsistent with respect”; “[m]ove from paper to practice in tackling barriers to access to remedy”; and “[e]nsure meaningful stakeholder engagement to reinforce protect, respect and remedy”. Enhancing collective action is called for, since this is “an essential part of the solution to systemic challenges that are at the root of many business-related human rights impacts.” The UNWG further highlights the need to “ensure coherence and alignment in standards development. This includes “build[ing] on the common understanding and conceptual clarity provided by the UNGPs”; “preserving alignment between the UNGPs and standards that already integrate them, such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises”; and “ensuring coherence and alignment in further standards developments.” The UNWG also places specific attention on investors and business community “shapers” who have their own responsibility in addition to playing a role in driving better business processes and practices. (These ‘shapers’ include business lawyers and other corporate advisory providers, including accounting firms, auditors, social audit and assurance providers, management consultancies, and PR firms).
For more, see The UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, UNGPs 10+: A Roadmap for the Next Decade of Business and Human Rights (November 2021)