CSR themes

Respect for Human Rights

Respect for Human Rights

Human rights are general rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, skin color, language, sex, religion, political and other views, national, ethnic, and social belonging, origin, possessions or status, residence place or any other feature and status. These rights are not given to human beings, and they cannot be taken away (they can be partially limited in some specific circumstances, for example, in imprisonment), and they are integral rights of all human beings from birth to death. 

At present, there are numerous international agreements that formulate and define basic human rights, recognizing their superiority over rules and norms accepted in various cultural-historical or political systems.  

There are several classifications of human rights. According to the most widespread classification, five broad categories of human rights are distinguished - economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights. 

The founding document in this area - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights – recognizes that human rights are inherent, inalienable, universal, indivisible, and interdependent.

Business and Human Rights

The primary responsibility for the enforcement of international human rights standards lies with national Governments. By signing international conventions on human rights or passing national legislations, the Governments assume responsibility to respect and protect the rights of their citizens, as well as other people, within their countries and beyond. 

At the same time, in the modern world it is widely recognized that non-state organizations, including business companies, can significantly affect the protection of human rights, and hence have a responsibility to respect them. Due to the scale of its overall impact, the role of the private sector is considered particularly important. 

For this reason, a growing number of business companies carries out active policies to protect human rights, and this issue is also particularly emphasized in their CSR context as well.

Connection between human rights and the business goes far beyond the mere protection of the laws. Stakeholders expect that companies take more active steps to protect human rights within their areas of influence, regardless of whether the State fulfills its commitments in this respect.

Human Rights Protection in the Context of Corporate Social Responsibility

Recognition and respect of human rights are widely regarded as essential part of any responsible business conduct and corporate responsibility, and all companies are equally expected to follow that. 

Responsible organization should respect human rights and recognize their importance and universality. On the one hand, the organization itself should not violate these rights, and, on the other hand, it should not hold back and be inactive when these rights are violated by others – in other words, by being passive, it should not become accomplice in human rights violation. 

In particular, a responsible company should: 

  • Respect and protect internationally recognized human rights, and acknowledge their universality
  • Follow national legislation and international commitments on human rights in the countries of its operations
  • Find ways to prevent and avoid human rights violations, if the violations are directly related to its business activity, goods or services, even when the company is not immediately the reason of such violation
  • Carry out relevant monitoring with respect to human rights protection, considering the company size, activity, and the seriousness of potential/risks of violating human rights
  • If activity of the company has any kind of negative affect on human rights protection, cooperate with governmental and other agencies to overcome the harm
  • In situations where human rights are not protected, take steps to respect human rights and avoid taking advantage of these situations
  • In the countries where the national legislation or its implementation does not provide for adequate protection of human rights, companies should adhere to the international standards and norms of behavior
  • During armed conflicts, respect international humanitarian standards. 

In general, the company activities might impact numerous aspects of human rights protection. However, for each company, considering such factors as its activity area, size, location and many more, various aspects of human rights will be the most relevant. Hence, the areas and scales of the risks of their violation will differ. So, it is essential for the organization to analyze potential risks of violating human rights following its business activity and based on this, develop its own human rights protection policy. 

For the time being, there are many international agreements in place, establishing behavioral norms of national governments and various other actors, including business companies, in the area of human rights protection. 

Majority of internationally recognized initiatives and standards of corporate social responsibility have a component of human rights, thus responding to the public’s increased demand to have the private sector involved in the protection of human rights.