Leading companies ‘failing’ on human rights

Four in 10 of the world’s largest extractive, agricultural, and clothing or footwear companies are failing to identify or mitigate human rights issues in their supply chains.


Prada, Starbucks and Kraft Heinz are among those that score poorly in this year’s Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB), while leading companies include Adidas, Nestlé and Rio Tinto.

The ranking of 101 major firms is based on publicly available information on 100 indicators linked to issues like forced labour, protecting human rights activists, and the living wage.

Although better than last year, the average score remains “unacceptably low” at 27 out of 100, while two-thirds of the companies scored less than 30 in the rankings.

 “Seventy years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this is very concerning,” CHRB independent director, Margaret Wachenfeld, said.

“If businesses will not clearly demonstrate their respect for human rights, then governments should step in with tougher laws to protect people – the majority are failing to make the grade.”

The ranking also shows that virtually none of the companies demonstrate strong commitments to ensure living wages are paid to workers in their own operations and supply chains.

Less than 10% commit to respecting human rights defenders, including those exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association, public assembly and protest.

A clear gap between companies acknowledging allegations and actually engaging with those affected was also found.

Leading companies showed that identifying and managing risks was a key part of their core business, while firms at the bottom failed to demonstrate any engagement with human rights concerns.

The CHRB is now calling on companies to use the rankings to understand where improvements can be made, and is urging investors to challenge poorly performing businesses.

“Forced and child labour, gender equality and protecting activists are some of the most pressing issues of our time,” said John Morrison, chief executive of the Institute for Human Rights and Business.

“Companies need to show how they’re addressing these challenges, to protect themselves from legal penalties or action from investors and consumers.”


Image credit | iStock

Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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