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Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework, 2011

Contents

 

Endorsed by UN Human Rights Council on 16 June 2011

Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations "Protect, Respect and Remedy" Framework

General principles

These Guiding Principles are grounded in recognition of:

  1. States' existing obligations to respect, protect and fulfil human rights and fundamental freedoms;
  2. The role of business enterprises as specialized organs of society performing specialized functions, required to comply with all applicable laws and to respect human rights;
  3. The need for rights and obligations to be matched to appropriate and effective remedies when breached.

These Guiding Principles apply to all States and to all business enterprises, both transnational and others, regardless of their size, sector, location, ownership and structure.

These Guiding Principles should be understood as a coherent whole and should be read, individually and collectively, in terms of their objective of enhancing standards and practices with regard to business and human rights so as to achieve tangible results for affected individuals and communities, and thereby also contributing to a socially sustainable globalization.

Nothing in these Guiding Principles should be read as creating new international law obligations, or as limiting or undermining any legal obligations a State may have undertaken or be subject to under international law with regard to human rights.

These Guiding Principles should be implemented in a non-discriminatory manner, with particular attention to the rights and needs of, as well as the challenges faced by, individuals from groups or populations that may be at heightened risk of becoming vulnerable or marginalized, and with due regard to the different risks that may be faced by women and men.

I. The State duty to protect human rights

A. Foundational principles

  1. States must protect against human rights abuse within their territory and/or jurisdiction by third parties, including business enterprises. This requires taking appropriate steps to prevent, investigate, punish and redress such abuse through effective policies, legislation, regulations and adjudication.
  2. States should set out clearly the expectation that all business enterprises domiciled in their territory and/or jurisdiction respect human rights throughout their operations.

B. Operational principles

General State regulatory and policy functions

  1. In meeting their duty to protect, States should:
    1. Enforce laws that are aimed at, or have the effect of, requiring business enterprises to respect human rights, and periodically to assess the adequacy of such laws and address any gaps;
    2. Ensure that other laws and policies governing the creation and ongoing operation of business enterprises, such as corporate law, do not constrain but enable business respect for human rights;
    3. Provide effective guidance to business enterprises on how to respect human rights throughout their operations;
    4. Encourage, and where appropriate require, business enterprises to communicate how they address their human rights impacts.

The State-business nexus

  1. States should take additional steps to protect against human rights abuses by business enterprises that are owned or controlled by the State, or that receive substantial support and services from State agencies such as export credit agencies and official investment insurance or guarantee agencies, including, where appropriate, by requiring human rights due diligence.
  2. States should exercise adequate oversight in order to meet their international human rights obligations when they contract with, or legislate for, business enterprises to provide services that may impact upon the enjoyment of human rights.
  3. States should promote respect for human rights by business enterprises with which they conduct commercial transactions.

Supporting business respect for human rights in conflict-affected areas

  1. Because the risk of gross human rights abuses is heightened in conflict-affected areas, States should help ensure that business enterprises operating in those contexts are not involved with such abuses, including by:
    1. Engaging at the earliest stage possible with business enterprises to help them identify, prevent and mitigate the human rights-related risks of their activities and business relationships;
    2. Providing adequate assistance to business enterprises to assess and address the heightened risks of abuses, paying special attention to both gender-based and sexual violence;
    3. Denying access to public support and services for a business enterprise that is involved with gross human rights abuses and refuses to cooperate in addressing the situation;
    4. Ensuring that their current policies, legislation, regulations and enforcement measures are effective in addressing the risk of business involvement in gross human rights abuses.

Ensuring policy coherence

  1. States should ensure that governmental departments, agencies and other State-based institutions that shape business practices are aware of and observe the State's human rights obligations when fulfilling their respective mandates, including by providing them with relevant information, training and support.
  2. States should maintain adequate domestic policy space to meet their human rights obligations when pursuing business-related policy objectives with other States or business enterprises, for instance through investment treaties or contracts.
  3. States, when acting as members of multilateral institutions that deal with business-related issues, should:
    1. Seek to ensure that those institutions neither restrain the ability of their member States to meet their duty to protect nor hinder business enterprises from respecting human rights;
    2. Encourage those institutions, within their respective mandates and capacities, to promote business respect for human rights and, where requested, to help States meet their duty to protect against human rights abuse by business enterprises, including through technical assistance, capacity-building and awareness-raising;
    3. Draw on these Guiding Principles to promote shared understanding and advance international cooperation in the management of business and human rights challenges.

II. The corporate responsibility to respect human rights

A. Foundational principles

  1. Business enterprises should respect human rights. This means that they should avoid infringing on the human rights of others and should address adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved.
  2. The responsibility of business enterprises to respect human rights refers to internationally recognized human rights - understood, at a minimum, as those expressed in the International Bill of Human Rights and the principles concerning fundamental rights set out in the International Labour Organization's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.
  3. The responsibility to respect human rights requires that business enterprises:
    1. Avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their own activities, and address such impacts when they occur;
    2. Seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts.
  4. The responsibility of business enterprises to respect human rights applies to all enterprises regardless of their size, sector, operational context, ownership and structure. Nevertheless, the scale and complexity of the means through which enterprises meet that responsibility may vary according to these factors and with the severity of the enterprise's adverse human rights impacts.
  5. In order to meet their responsibility to respect human rights, business enterprises should have in place policies and processes appropriate to their size and circumstances, including:
    1. A policy commitment to meet their responsibility to respect human rights;
    2. A human rights due-diligence process to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address their impacts on human rights;
    3. Processes to enable the remediation of any adverse human rights impacts they cause or to which they contribute.

B. Operational principles

Policy commitment

  1. As the basis for embedding their responsibility to respect human rights, business enterprises should express their commitment to meet this responsibility through a statement of policy that:
    1. Is approved at the most senior level of the business enterprise;
    2. Is informed by relevant internal and/or external expertise;
    3. Stipulates the enterprise's human rights expectations of personnel, business partners and other parties directly linked to its operations, products or services;
    4. Is publicly available and communicated internally and externally to all personnel, business partners and other relevant parties;
    5. Is reflected in operational policies and procedures necessary to embed it throughout the business enterprise.

Human rights due diligence

  1. In order to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address their adverse human rights impacts, business enterprises should carry out human rights due diligence. The process should include assessing actual and potential human rights impacts, integrating and acting upon the findings, tracking responses, and communicating how impacts are addressed. Human rights due diligence:
    1. Should cover adverse human rights impacts that the business enterprise may cause or contribute to through its own activities, or which may be directly linked to its operations, products or services by its business relationships;
    2. Will vary in complexity with the size of the business enterprise, the risk of severe human rights impacts, and the nature and context of its operations;
    3. Should be ongoing, recognizing that the human rights risks may change over time as the business enterprise's operations and operating context evolve.
  2. In order to gauge human rights risks, business enterprises should identify and assess any actual or potential adverse human rights impacts with which they may be involved either through their own activities or as a result of their business relationships. This process should:
    1. Draw on internal and/or independent external human rights expertise;
    2. Involve meaningful consultation with potentially affected groups and other relevant stakeholders, as appropriate to the size of the business enterprise and the nature and context of the operation.
  3. In order to prevent and mitigate adverse human rights impacts, business enterprises should integrate the findings from their impact assessments across relevant internal functions and processes, and take appropriate action.
    1. Effective integration requires that:
      1. Responsibility for addressing such impacts is assigned to the appropriate level and function within the business enterprise;
      2. Internal decision-making, budget allocations and oversight processes enable effective responses to such impacts.
    2. Appropriate action will vary according to:
      1. Whether the business enterprise causes or contributes to an adverse impact, or whether it is involved solely because the impact is directly linked to its operations, products or services by a business relationship;
      2. The extent of its leverage in addressing the adverse impact.
  4. In order to verify whether adverse human rights impacts are being addressed, business enterprises should track the effectiveness of their response. Tracking should:
    1. Be based on appropriate qualitative and quantitative indicators;
    2. Draw on feedback from both internal and external sources, including affected stakeholders.
  5. In order to account for how they address their human rights impacts, business enterprises should be prepared to communicate this externally, particularly when concerns are raised by or on behalf of affected stakeholders. Business enterprises whose operations or operating contexts pose risks of severe human rights impacts should report formally on how they address them. In all instances, communications should:
    1. Be of a form and frequency that reflect an enterprise's human rights impacts and that are accessible to its intended audiences;
    2. Provide information that is sufficient to evaluate the adequacy of an enterprise's response to the particular human rights impact involved;
    3. In turn not pose risks to affected stakeholders, personnel or to legitimate requirements of commercial confidentiality.

Remediation

  1. Where business enterprises identify that they have caused or contributed to adverse impacts, they should provide for or cooperate in their remediation through legitimate processes.

Issues of context

  1. In all contexts, business enterprises should:
    1. Comply with all applicable laws and respect internationally recognized human rights, wherever they operate;
    2. Seek ways to honour the principles of internationally recognized human rights when faced with conflicting requirements;
    3. Treat the risk of causing or contributing to gross human rights abuses as a legal compliance issue wherever they operate.
  2. Where it is necessary to prioritize actions to address actual and potential adverse human rights impacts, business enterprises should first seek to prevent and mitigate those that are most severe or where delayed response would make them irremediable.

III. Access to remedy

A. Foundational principle

  1. As part of their duty to protect against business-related human rights abuse, States must take appropriate steps to ensure, through judicial, administrative, legislative or other appropriate means, that when such abuses occur within their territory and/or jurisdiction those affected have access to effective remedy.

B. Operational principles

State-based judicial mechanisms

  1. States should take appropriate steps to ensure the effectiveness of domestic judicial mechanisms when addressing business-related human rights abuses, including considering ways to reduce legal, practical and other relevant barriers that could lead to a denial of access to remedy.

State-based non-judicial grievance mechanisms

  1. States should provide effective and appropriate non-judicial grievance mechanisms, alongside judicial mechanisms, as part of a comprehensive State-based system for the remedy of business-related human rights abuse.

Non-State-based grievance mechanisms

  1. States should consider ways to facilitate access to effective non-State-based grievance mechanisms dealing with business-related human rights harms.
  2.  To make it possible for grievances to be addressed early and remediated directly, business enterprises should establish or participate in effective operational-level grievance mechanisms for individuals and communities who may be adversely impacted.
  3. Industry, multi-stakeholder and other collaborative initiatives that are based on respect for human rights-related standards should ensure that effective grievance mechanisms are available.

Effectiveness criteria for non-judicial grievance mechanisms

  1. In order to ensure their effectiveness, non-judicial grievance mechanisms, both State-based and non-State-based, should be:
    1. Legitimate: enabling trust from the stakeholder groups for whose use they are intended, and being accountable for the fair conduct of grievance processes;
    2. Accessible: being known to all stakeholder groups for whose use they are intended, and providing adequate assistance for those who may face particular barriers to access;
    3. Predictable: providing a clear and known procedure with an indicative timeframe for each stage, and clarity on the types of process and outcome available and means of monitoring implementation;
    4. Equitable: seeking to ensure that aggrieved parties have reasonable access to sources of information, advice and expertise necessary to engage in a grievance process on fair, informed and respectful terms;
    5. Transparent: keeping parties to a grievance informed about its progress, and providing sufficient information about the mechanism's performance to build confidence in its effectiveness and meet any public interest at stake;
    6. Rights-compatible: ensuring that outcomes and remedies accord with internationally recognized human rights;
    7. A source of continuous learning: drawing on relevant measures to identify lessons for improving the mechanism and preventing future grievances and harms;

Operational-level mechanisms should also be:

  1. Based on engagement and dialogue: consulting the stakeholder groups for whose use they are intended on their design and performance, and focusing on dialogue as the means to address and resolve grievances.