It was a great breakfast meeting; a meeting of minds on the many issues that challenge us as women professionally and at home. Coffee was great too.
We started talking about ‘doing the right thing’ in company behavioral terms. It struck me that so many companies are still facing the challenge at board level of what the ‘right thing’ might be.
In his recent lecture at UCL professor John Ruggie spoke of companies always claiming that they comply with human rights requirements (legally and under the UNGPS) but pointed out that there was a need to ‘know and show’: compliance means having policies in place backed up by procedures.
The law on disclosure of human rights issues has of course begun to address this issue.. We have seen such developments in reporting requirements for listed companies here in the UK. The EU has also addressed the issue of human rights reporting by the passing of its Directive on non-financial reporting last year. And in the UK we also now have a Modern Slavery Act that will attempt to make companies more alert to and transparent on slavery in their supply chains. Some companies are beginning to be in a position to effectively address the question of human rights abuses in both their organisation and in their supply chains. But not many.
So has the law changed anything? We have seen in reports that relatively few companies actually have a human rights policy. Recent research by Shift, indicates that only 44% of companies address how they are embedding human rights considerations and managing those particular risks through due diligence.
There is a definite sense that companies still look to only do the bare minimum. That is, only what is required from them in terms of compliance. Doing the right thing does not appear to feature very high on the priority list when one digs a bit deeper, and best practice is something that only a few companies aspire to. Nonetheless, there is growing imperative for companies to act on these issues given the growth in regulation, albeit from increasingly fragmented sources, and rising pressure from the media, a more informed general public, and NGOs.
So is it all a bit depressing? Or are we on the cusp of something new? Is there a paradigm shift about to happen?
We have been thinking about these issues a lot as of late. It has led us to articulate our vision more clearly. CLT envirolaw has a vision to be at the forefront of developing and applying the law and best practice in the area of business and human rights and sustainability. We are looking to work with partners, collaborators and clients who share these views. Do you?
Interested to find out more about some of the legislation discussed in this blog? Scroll down to the bottom of our homepage and have a look at our FREE resources on legal compliance and more.
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