Global Compact Network SL calls for private sector to join new BHRA

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Global Compact Network Sri Lanka has launched the Business & Human Rights Accelerator (BHRA), a six-month learning programme to equip companies with the tools and knowledge they need to establish an ongoing human rights due diligence process and ensure they are meeting their responsibility to respect human rights. Such a robust corporate human rights due diligence process shifts companies from a ‘risks to business’ to a ‘risks to people’ approach, a spokesman said.

 The Business & Human Rights Accelerator will help companies understand when, where and how business impacts human rights and how to prioritise the most salient issues for action while identifying the most appropriate measures to mitigate risks, track the effectiveness of their efforts and communicate effectively to stakeholders about their progress. Such a robust corporate human rights due diligence process shifts companies from a ‘risks to business’ to a ‘risks to people’ approach.

 “Business, whether directly or indirectly, impacts almost the entire spectrum of internationally recognised human rights. It impacts the human rights of employees and contract workers, workers in their supply chains, the communities around their operations and even the end users of their products and services. By completing the Business & Human Rights Accelerator, companies will not only learn how to reduce or prevent negative human rights impacts but also build a competitive advantage by ultimately becoming a powerful force for good,” said Sanda Ojiambo, Assistant Secretary-General; Executive Director & CEO of the UN Global Compact.

 “Understanding the rights of the stakeholders is the minimum standard expected from any business. Today, more than ever stakeholders are well aware of their rights in the workplace, marketplace and community and they are integral to business. Upholding the standards and fulfilling stakeholder expectations is almost non-negotiable for those who aspire to position themselves as responsible businesses with good governance” said Rathika De Silva, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact Network Sri Lanka.

 “The Business & Human Rights Accelerator is a welcome step and a building block for companies to progress and evolve in this space. A closer relationship with employees will improve information flow and transparency, enhancing productivity and performance, and helping businesses nurture their human capital. This will in turn help proactively navigate reputational risk and strengthen competitive advantage. Driving positive change and being stronger together is in everyone’s interest, ultimately enabling business and society to live in greater harmony,” said Choliya De Silva, Board Adviser to the Business and Human Rights Working Group and Board Member of the UN Global Compact Network Sri Lanka.

Assessments by benchmark and ranking initiatives highlight that the majority of companies do not demonstrate practices that meet the requirements set by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This may indicate that risks to workers and communities are not being managed adequately in spite of growing awareness and commitments. Almost half (46.2%) of the biggest companies in the world evaluated by the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark in 2020 as part of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights failed to show any evidence of mitigating human rights issues in their supply chains. 

Through taking part in the Business & Human Rights Accelerator, participants receive an assessment of their company’s actual and potential adverse human rights impacts. They also build an action plan so they can return to work with the goal of putting their learnings into practice to drive change. Lastly, they’ll build an invaluable network of peers, UN partners and experts that will inspire them to shape their human rights journey and advance a global movement.

Through Global Compact Network Sri Lanka, companies participating in the Business & Human Rights Accelerator will gain access to best practices, peer-to-peer learning opportunities, capacity building sessions and on-demand training. The Business & Human Rights Accelerator aims to engage 450 companies, including SMEs, across industries in more than 30 countries. Companies of all sizes are encouraged to apply for the accelerator programme at unglobalcompact.org/bhr-accelerator.