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What Are The Human Rights Obligations Of Entrepreneurs?

Business can have a profound impact on human rights.

This impact can be positive, for example by delivering innovation and services that can improve living standards of populations, or negative, for example where business activities destroy people’s livelihoods, exploit workers or displace communities.

The Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were developed by the United Nations to clarify the different roles and responsibilities that States and companies have to address business impact on human rights. According to the Guiding Principles, all business enterprises should respect human rights, meaning that they should avoid infringing on the human rights of others and should address adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved.

In depth…

The Guiding Principles clarify that the standard of responsibility for business with regard to human rights is to respect human rights, and they elaborate on the steps that companies must take to “know and show” that they do so. This responsibility means companies must know their impact, avoid human rights infringements and address any potential or actual impact. If companies find that they have caused or contributed to harm, they must provide for or participate in effective remedy processes.

An minimum list of the core internationally recognized human rights the companies must respect is contained in the International Bill of Human Rights (consisting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the main instruments through which it has been codified: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), coupled with the principles concerning fundamental rights in the ILO core conventions as set out in the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

Depending on circumstances, business enterprises may need to consider additional standards, for instance, where they may have adverse human rights impacts on specific groups of population. In this connection, United Nations instruments have elaborated further on the rights of indigenous peoples; women; national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities; children; persons with disabilities; and migrant workers and their families.

The Guiding Principles clarify that the responsibility of businesses to respect human rights is independent of States’ ability or willingness to fulfill their duty to protect human rights, and exists over and above compliance with national laws and regulations protecting human rights.