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UK's Equality and Human Rights Commission produces guidance for company boards

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has produced a guide for UK boards to ensure that they are taking human rights seriously and meeting their international obligations.

The guide provides five steps boards should follow to satisfy themselves that their companies identify, mitigate and report on the human rights impacts of their activities. These steps will also help boards to reflect their leadership and fiduciary duties, the Commission said. This guide also provides advice on how boards can meet the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the global standard, which outline the role of business and governments in respecting human rights.

The  Equality and Human Rights Commission stated that in order to meet the expectations of the UN Guiding Principles and UK statutory reporting obligations boards should be aware of the company’s salient, or most severe, human rights risks, and ensure the company:

  1. embeds the responsibility to respect human rights into its culture, knowledge and practices
  2. identifies and understands its salient, or most severe, risks to human rights
  3. systematically addresses its salient, or most severe, risks to human rights and provides for remedy when needed
  4. engages with stakeholders to inform its approach to addressing human rights risks
  5. reports on its salient, or most severe, human rights risks and meets regulatory reporting requirements

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights set the expectation that companies should identify and address human rights risks, and track and communicate how effectively they do so. This global standard is reflected in various areas of UK Government policy and law, the Commission said including the the UK Government’s 2013 National Action Plan on business and human rights which states that companies should respect human rights wherever they operate. Recent amendments to EU and domestic law now also place duties on companies related to disclosure about how they manage their human rights impacts, the Commission said.

What do you think?