Majority of corporates failing on basic human rights, study finds

Most major companies in the clothing, food and drink, extractive, and technology manufacturing sectors are failing to meet basic corporate human rights expectations.


That is according to a study by the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB), which assessed 200 firms on issues such as forced labour, the living wage, and protecting human rights activists.

Although some have improved significantly over the last year, more than half are still failing to meet any of the UN’s Guiding Principles on basic human rights due diligence

The companies were given an average score of 24 out of 100, with Starbucks, Costco and Monster Beverages among the worst performers in the ranking.

“The scores reflect market failures around human rights where some companies rely on business models and practices that abuse people’s rights and avoid scrutiny and accountability," said CHRB board member, Phil Bloomer.

"This latest data shows welcome improvements from many, but the majority are not moving fast enough toward respecting human rights."

The findings show that 75% of the 200 companies studied have improved their scores, with Adidas, Unilever, and Marks & Spencer leading their sectors.

However, firms added to the ranking this year scored an average of just 17 out of 100, while technology companies averaged 18, with Western Digital, Qualcomm and Broadcom all scoring less than 10.

Burberry, Puma, Newmont-Goldcorp, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Wilmar and Barrick Gold are exceptions and all scored above 40.

The CHRB findings are already used by multiple investors, such as Aviva Investors and APG, and are considered by multi-trillion-dollar investor coalitions when engaging with companies.

The data allows firms to 'know and show' that they are respecting human rights, and the researchers said that more urgently needs to be done by companies, investors and governments.  

“States have a duty to protect people from corporate abuse and while recent measures to improve human rights due diligence are welcome, more needs to be done to make respect for human rights  ‘business as usual’,” Bloomer added.


Image credit: ©iStock


Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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