Leading organizations call for better corporate reporting on human rights

Source: Global Reporting Initiative, 23 September 2008

Marking sixty years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, three leading organizations are launching a new initiative to foster greater integration of human rights principles into corporate sustainability reporting. The project – Human Rights: A Call to Action – is co-led by Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative, headed by former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson; The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), developers of the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting framework; and the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), the world’s largest global corporate citizenship initiative.
Companies are being called to make a commitment to measuring and publicly reporting on human rights as a business issue.

Significant progress has been made by many corporate leaders in understanding the relevance of human rights to business since the Universal Declaration turned 50 a decade ago. Initiatives like the UN Global Compact have helped highlight the links between human rights and business issues such as managing legal and operational risk and reputation, meeting shareholder and stakeholder expectations and maintaining and motivating staff performance. The GRI G3 Guidelines – the world’s most widely-used sustainability reporting framework – have, since their launch in 2006, provided the means for companies to publicly disclose their sustainability performance, including on human rights issues – information that is increasingly demanded by investors, consumers, employees and other stakeholders.

The project aims to significantly improve understanding of how and why to publicly disclose policies and practice relating to human rights and how to embed this better understanding into global reporting standards.

Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Global Compact Board member and President of Realizing Rights said:

“The 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration during 2008 presents a key opportunity for the many companies who still haven’t thought seriously about the role of human rights in their business operations to do so, including by making human rights an integral part of their public reporting on sustainability issues.”

GRI, UNGC and Realizing Rights are currently assembling a Working Group of experts from finance, business and civil society to shape greater consensus on what constitutes good human rights practice and measurement. The Working Group’s efforts will be framed by an assessment of current practices in human rights reporting commissioned by the project leads. These efforts will lead to the development of practical resources to help businesses improve their human rights performance measurement and reporting. The project will also identify how the GRI G3Guidelines can support improved reporting on human rights performance. It is hoped that this will result not only in more companies addressing human rights as a business issue, but also in improved quality of corporate reporting on human rights issues.

Ernst Ligteringen, Chief Executive of the Global Reporting Initiative said:

“In recent years businesses globally have come together with civil society and other stakeholders in developing the GRI’s Sustainability Reporting Framework which includes guidance on the disclosure of human rights performance. GRI is delighted to be working with Realizing Rights and the Global Compact to provide resources to business and to further engage them in the ongoing development of the Guidelines ensuring their continued relevance for companies and their stakeholders globally.”

Georg Kell, Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact said:

“Sustainability reporting supports the deeper integration of human rights into business practices both by establishing an external accountability mechanism as well as stimulating companies to improve their internal management systems as part of the process of developing reports. This new initiative therefore complements the ongoing activities of the Global Compact and other organizations on human rights.”

Companies are invited to support the call to action by signing up at http://www.globalreporting.org/humanrights