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Will Business Ever Take Human Rights Seriously?

Logo of the Global Compact Critics organisationThe UN Global Compact has a whole basketful of detractors. This is not surprising: like anything emanating from UNHQ in Manhattan it is unwieldy and slow moving, and often seems to work against itself.

Recently it hit back at these critics and got tough by introducing “integrity measures”. These resulted in over 20% of its signatories being classed as inactive or delisted altogether because they hadn’t reported back on progress.

However this doesn’t stop companies Bluewashing themselves by committing to the Compact’s Ten Principles and then do nothing except wrap themselves in the UN’s flag of respectability.

Two of the principles refer to Human Rights, stating that the signatory will uphold internationally agreed human rights standards and make sure they’re not complicit in human rights abuses.

At the time of writing there are 3704 businesses classed as active by the Global Compact. However, according to the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre only 167 businesses worldwide have policies which explicitly mention human rights.

Now comes news that Mary Robinson, the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, is writing to leading international companies urging them to use the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to adopt a human rights policy.

What do you think her chances of success are? Should businesses adopt a specific human rights policy, and if so what is the best way for investors to keep track of its effectiveness?

Let me know what you think below, or start a discussion on the Green Options Discussion Forum.

Related Posts:
Oil Companies’ Shareholders Reject Activist Proposals
Human Rights Acting as Climate Change Policy Compass

Written by Chris Milton

is a seasoned sustainability journalist focusing on business, finance and clean technology. His writing's been carried by a number of highly respected publishers, including The Guardian, The Washington Post and Scientific American. You can follow him on twitter as @britesprite, where he's one of Mashable's top green tweeters and Fast Company's CSR thought leaders. Alternatively you can follow him to the shops... but that would be boring.

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