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UN Global Compact Russia

Events

BUSINESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS. CURRENT ASPECTS

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The topics that opened the two-day Russian Labor Safety Week Forum (RLSW-2021) for occupational safety and health, ecological and industrial safety specialists on September 7 included current aspects of business and human rights. Marina Vashukova, Executive Director of the Association "National Network of the Global Compact", presented current aspects of the topic, which became the basis of the Implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in the Strategy and Practice of Russian Companies project to the participants of the RLSW. The Network is embarking on a two-year project jointly with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and with the support of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, as well as POLYUS, Sakhalin Energy and Metalloinvest member companies.

Respect for human dignity and understanding of the equal rights of all people on the planet underlie foremost a large list of internationally recognized rights that are today in the focus of responsible business. The context of the topic is not new – it is the context of international human rights law, international humanitarian law, which primarily consists of the International Bill of Human Rights (it includes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights); the ILO Declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work (enshrined in eight core conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO); the UN human rights instruments which set out the rights of persons belonging to special population groups (the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, etc.); norms of international law applied in circumstances of armed conflict (for example, An Introduction to the Rights and Obligations of Business Enterprises under International Humanitarian Law, developed by the International Committee of the Red Cross), etc.

A new and growing trend is the fact that the UN and the international community motivate business not only to welcome all these international norms, but also to integrate them into policies and strategies, realizing that human rights obligations are becoming business standards of entrepreneurial activity today, and their implementation has specific features that need to be studied, the depth of implementation of which needs to be measured, adherence to which needs to be demonstrated and even proven

A new growing trend can be called the fact that the UN and the international community motivate business not only to welcome all these international norms, but also to integrate them into policies and strategies, realizing that human rights obligations are becoming business standards of entrepreneurial activity today, and their implementation has specifics that need to be studied, the depth of their incorporation needs to be measured, commitment to them needs to be demonstrated and even proved.

As a rule, international human rights treaties do not impose direct legal obligations on companies, which is why legal responsibility and enforcement in case of violation of international human rights standards by enterprises is mainly determined by national legislation. At the same time, the actions of companies, as well as those of other non-government actors, can affect the enjoyment of human rights by other parties, with both positive and negative effects. Companies affect the human rights of their employees, their customers, the workers of their suppliers or the communities living in the regions of their operations. Companies can and do violate human rights when they fail to pay sufficient attention to human rights risks and methods of their reduction.

The core business human rights standard that helps companies deal with these risks is the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, approved in June 2011 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Guiding Principles (GPs) have been adopted as a worldwide standard of practice that is now expected of all states and enterprises in terms of business and human rights. The Guiding Principles themselves are not legally binding, but they explain in detail the implications of existing norms and practices for governments and businesses.

In order to assist Russian business and the expert community in the practical development and implementation of relevant international human rights standards and basing on the Guiding Principles, the UN GC Local Network, together with partners, is deploying a thematic project that consists of several stages, including the main ones as follows: the first all-Russian corporate survey (supported by Deloitte and Touche CIS), renewed legal expert review of the national legislation of the Russian Federation in terms of its compliance with the Guiding Principles and analysis of international experience in the development and implementation of national plans on human rights (with the support of FBK Legal (FBK Grant Thornton), a series of public consultations and discussions, creation and development of a database (a library of materials and best practices), preparation of methodological recommendations on human rights and international cooperation on sustainable development in the context of human rights for business, experts and authorities.

Based on the project results, within the framework of discussions and methodological recommendations, the main terms and directions of strategic and practical business activities in the field of human rights will be clarified for main stakeholders, including types of human rights (essential and non-essential), types of impact on human rights (adverse, actual, potential, etc.), types of human rights violations (serious, gross, international crimes, etc.), aspects of due diligence, involvement in human rights violations, prevention, mitigation and leverage, risks of and remedies for human rights violations, specific aspects of value creation structure in the context of human rights, and many others.
Examples of business impact on human rights

Examples of situations where companies may be considered to have an adverse impact on human rights:
– a restaurant having race discrimination in its customer service on a daily basis;
– factory workers are not provided with a safe working environment, and they do not have proper safety equipment;
– an enterprise is the only or main source of contamination of a community's drinking water due to chemical emissions from its production processes.

Examples of situations where companies are accused of having contributed to an adverse human rights impact:
– a company has provided data on Internet users to government agencies that use this data to track down and prosecute political dissidents in violation of human rights;
– an enterprise is constructing and maintaining a detention camp in which detainees are allegedly subjected to inhuman treatment;
– a company focuses on food and beverages with a high sugar content, intended for children, thereby contributing to the obesity of children;
– a company changes the requirements for suppliers at the last moment, while not adjusting the delivery times and prices, thereby pushing the suppliers to violate labor standards in order to comply with its requirements.

Examples of situations where the adverse impact is directly related to the activities, products or services of a company by virtue of its business relationship, although the company itself may not contribute to such an impact:
– providing financial loans to an enterprise for activities that, in violation of agreed norms, lead to the relocation of local communities;
– a supplier is subcontracting children working at home for embroidery of a retailer’s brand on the clothing, contrary to contractual obligations;
– medical institutions use scanning to identify female embryos, thereby
promoting abortion in favor of boys.

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