In June 2021, the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) will turn 10.
The UNGPs have been instrumental in laying the foundation for a unanimously agreed standard of conduct for both states and business enterprises. They have articulated the business responsibility to respect human rights into a dynamic process, that of due diligence, which requires companies to take reasonable steps to prevent adverse impacts from happening, mitigate them when they occur and provide remedy for the harms caused.
Looking ahead into the next decade of action, the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights is taking stock of what went well and what went wrong with the implementation of the UNGPs since their endorsement in 2011. They are also charting a course of action for the upcoming decade. This is the purpose of the UNGPs 10+ project.
Given the relevance of the UNGPs for amfori and its members, we have committed to contributing to the project under the leadership of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights.
To give voice to real practitioners, we launched a dedicated survey to collect members’ feedback on practical challenges and gaps within the UNGPs implementation, and also on expectations for the decade ahead.
The survey findings have been consolidated and published as an output paper alongside other businesses’ contributions to the UN Working Group project.
amfori’s Key Survey Findings
Looking at the past decade of action, the UNGPs have been instrumental in creating awareness around the business and human rights nexus. They have assisted in mainstreaming the business and human rights agenda, leading to a number of governments passing laws and investors using an ESG lens more systematically in their decision-making.
Nonetheless, there are still struggles to be accounted for, such as a lack of company internal buy-in and a challenge in getting business partners to work together and see the conducting of due diligence as a joint responsibility.
Looking into the next decade of the UNGPs implementation, governments should strengthen their legal frameworks, ensure the enforcement of the rule of law and fulfil their duty to protect human rights.
Initiatives like the one in the pipeline by the EU for the adoption of a harmonised due diligence legislation have the potential to be transformational and to overcome the challenge of a mushrooming of national initiatives.
Continuous engagement with suppliers and business partners to build capacity and to strengthen transparency should continue to be pursued in the coming years.
Developing guidelines on responsible purchasing practices might be helpful in ensuring that sustainability considerations are incorporated more systematically into buyers’ behaviour.
Cross-sectorial best practice sharing and interaction should be further stimulated, since supply chain issues are not always sector-specific and may cut across different supply chains.
Similarly, more outreach towards governments should be contemplated to ensure that the local dimension is better taken into account.
If you have any questions, please email Valentina Bolognesi.