Leadership in Business and Human Rights
About The Event
Friday 1 December, 2017: Global Compact Network Kenya in collaboration with Advocates for International Development (A4id) hosted a Business Leaders Breakfast Briefing on "Leadership in Business and Human Rights" The meeting convened thirty-five business leaders from diverse sectors to discuss developments in corporate approaches to advancing responsible business practices.
Opening the forum, Global Compact Kenya Country Coordinator Ms. Judy Njino drew participants attention to the first two Principles of the UN Global Compact which calls on business to support and respect the protection of human rights and make sure they are not complicit in human rights abuses. The Principles further complement the responsibilities of business in respecting human rights as provided for in Article 20 of the Kenyan Constitution.
Lawyers from the global law firms Clifford Chance LLP and Linklaters LLP facilitated the session on what respect for human rights means for corporate planning and strategising and the responsibilities and opportunities arising when a business commits to implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. (UNGPs).
Highlighting the business case for respecting and promoting human rights, Roger Leese, Partner, Clifford Chance LLP discussed various push and pull factors that present companies with opportunities and risks that can affect a business’ continued growth and social license to operate. Key business opportunities arising from respecting human rights include:
- Access to capital
- Positive stakeholder relations
- Reputation management
- Access to new markets
Recognizing that all business have an impact on human rights, companies are required to act in due diligence to avoid infringing the rights of others. Existing company processes can be adapted to incorporate a human rights lens in the due diligence process. The UNGPs provides for a four step process companies can take as follows:
- Assessing actual and potential business human rights impacts
- Integrating and acting upon the findings
- Tracking responses and;
- Communicating how impacts are addressed
The UNGPs further elaborate a set of 31 principles that clarify the duties and responsibilities of both states and businesses on tackling human rights risks related to business activities. The guiding principles are condensed into 3 pillars namely:
Pillar I: State Duty to Protect - States’ existing obligations to respect, protect and fulfill human rights against adverse impacts by non-state actors, including business
Pillar II: Business Responsibility to Respect -The responsibility of business enterprises to respect human rights; and
Pillar III: Access to Remedy - The need for state and non-state based, judicial and non-judicial remedies to ensure that rights and obligations are matched to appropriate and effective remedies when breached.
The facilitators further elaborated on the 3rd pillar on Access to Remedy where a range of actions including apologies, restitution, rehabilitation, financial or non-financial compensation and punitive sanctions (whether criminal or administrative, such as fines), as well as the prevention of harm through, for example, injunctions or guarantees of non-repetition, can be taken to counteract or make good any human rights harms that have occurred.
Discussions also focused on international trends in the field of business and human rights including the role of states in regulating business conduct through imposing reporting requirements. Participants were also sensitized on the emergence of issue specific international laws such as the Modern slavery Act and those touching on child labour that African companies should pay attention to.
Other key issues companies discussed include:
- The need to raise the awareness of human rights among citizens
- The role of culture in undermining gender rights
- How to tackle issues around minimum wage vs living wage in business contract relationships especially with SMEs
- Fostering a culture of human rights inclusion of 'invisible workers' such as those in low cadre jobs
- The importance of defining human rights from an African perspective