It’s Friday, which means it’s time for another rundown of five developments in the field of business and human rights — and broader corporate social responsibility — that we’ve been monitoring.
This week’s post includes a number of recent reports on issues ranging from conflict minerals to children’s rights. It also notes the release of the Sustainable Development Goals and the convening of Climate Week NYC.
- Earlier today, the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adopted in 2000 and set to expire at the end of the year. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which address issues ranging from poverty to climate change, were developed with extensive input from the business community. On September 26, the U.N. Private Sector Forum will launch SDG Compass, a project to guide companies in aligning and integrating their practices in a manner intended to help achieve the SDGs.
- The latest report of the U.N. Working Group on Business and Human Rights was published earlier this month. The report assesses both public and private implementation of the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. In its observations, the Working Group called for more evaluation of the impacts of implementation, noting that “[w]hile commitments and the establishment of processes and systems constitute critical steps towards protecting individuals and communities against human rights abuses by business enterprises, they do not reflect whether those abuses are being reduced in practice.”
- In mid-September, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, which supports 178,000 members in 181 countries, released Reporting on Children’s Rights, a report intended to provide guidance to the business community on reporting on the impacts of their business activities on the rights of children. The report observes that, “a number of emerging reporting frameworks (Integrated Reporting, RAFI and SASB) provide for, and in some cases (GRI and EU requirements) actively support, reporting on the children’s rights issues that businesses face.” Notably, the U.N. Guiding Principles state that companies should pay particular attention to the rights and needs of groups or populations that may be more vulnerable — a group that certainly includes children.
- Now that several months have passed since companies filed their second round of conflict minerals disclosures with the Securities and Exchange Commission, a number of reports have been released analyzing corporate performance and reporting pursuant to the conflict minerals rule. One report, Mining the Disclosures 2015, published this month by the Responsible Sourcing Network observed that the 2015 reports reflect “extensive variation due to different companies’ business models, corporate culture, or interpretation of the law.” The report also observed that while many companies have demonstrated a willingness to assess supply chain risks, companies have not yet responded to those risks by building the capability of suppliers, smelters, and refiners.
- Finally, this week is Climate Week NYC, a series of events intended to highlight the role of both governments and the private sector in addressing the challenges of climate change. Coinciding with the convening of the U.N. General Assembly, and the release of the Sustainable Development Goals, many participants in this year’s Climate Week are looking ahead to the U.N. Convention on Climate Change happening in Paris later this year and the possibility for a international agreement. Increasingly, key stakeholders are drawing links between climate change and human rights. In a report released last year, the International Bar Association’s Presidential Task Force on Climate Change Justice and Human Rights called for guidance on how human rights due diligence processes can identify, prevent, mitigate, and account for climate change impacts.