Human Rights and CSR: Integral and Integrated
Scholar-practitioner Marcy Murninghan’s latest article on the Murninghan Post offers a compelling overview of the advancement of human rights and how they tie in to corporate governance and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. On June 16th the United Nations Human Rights Commission (HRC) endorsed the Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights. Harvard professor John Ruggie first proposed these guidelines for how multinationals should approach the thorny issue of basic human dignity. For far too long, CSR has focused on the environment. That is easy to understand, as the focus on metrics makes it easy to quantify a firm’s carbon output or percentage of materials recycled. That low-hanging fruit should have been picked long ago. But human beings cannot be recycled, and while it is commendable to disclose what a company has done for its diversity or employees’ health and well-being, another group has been largely invisible. I am talking about the countless of workers throughout a supply chain who toil long hours, have few rights, and have suffered abuse to an extent that few of us can wrap our heads around. Now the hard part begins, as companies must answer their stakeholders’ piqued interest in labor and human-rights related issues--it will be difficult fruit to pick and full of lemons that some executive suites will be loathe . . . to disclose. Human rights are not a separate issue, however, and to that end, Murninghan reminds us that:
Whether you call it CSR or ESG (environmental, social and governance), or CSI (common sense and integrity), the Ruggie Principles are a hugely important step in the right direction. Read Murninghan’s entire post here.
We hope that firms respond to the Guiding Principles without segregating human rights into a separate category.