Businesses in every industry have a responsibility to respect human rights. However, certain sectors face more pressing challenges than others, and in an effort to focus on these areas John Ruggie (acting in his capacity as the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises) submitted a report to the Human Rights Council in 2008 surveying the scope and patterns of alleged corporate-related human rights abuse.* The following list of industries was highlighted:
2) financial services
3) food and beverage
4) heavy manufacturing, infrastructure and utilities
5) information technology, electronics and telecommunications
6) pharmaceutical and chemical
7) retail and consumer products
8) and a residual category (other).
I compared these categories against a list of companies that already have human rights policies in place, as compiled by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre. What did I find? Was there any synergy between the industries displaying patterns of human rights abuse in 2008 and the implementation of human rights policies as of 2013? If yes, which industries demonstrate the highest penetration? Which are the stragglers?
What I plan to do is to release a different industry analysis each day, trying to draw some preliminary conclusions about the acceptance of the responsibility to respect human rights in the various sectors highlighted by Ruggie and his team. Stay tuned for the results!
*Ruggie’s report was based on coding of cases listed on the Business and Human Rights Resource Center‘s webpage from 2005-2007.