Global Business Responsibility Resource Center: Human Rights



Human rights are basic standards of treatment to which all people are entitled, regardless of nationality, gender, race, economic status or religion. While human rights principles were originally intended to limit state action towards individuals or groups, several human rights principles relate directly or indirectly to private sector actions. These include the avoidance of child labor in global manufacturing; non-participation in state action depriving citizens of basic civil liberties, and the avoidance of forced prison labor. Contrary to the assertions of some, human rights are not a "Western" or "Northern" concept. Indeed, many countries in all regions of the world incorporate international human rights standards into their national constitutions. Universal human rights principles were adopted by most of the world's nations in the wake of World War II. In the war's aftermath, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the most widely recognized human rights benchmark. Human rights fall into five general categories: economic, social, cultural, political and civil.

With the end of the Cold War and the rapid growth of the global economy, amongst other reasons, recognition of the link between business and human rights has increased significantly in recent years. This link is demonstrated through several recent trends: (1) the proliferation of corporate codes of conduct protecting the human rights and labor rights of workers employed by companies and their business partners; (2) the inclusion of human rights into global business principles; (3) the expanded attention paid by human rights organizations, consumers and the media to business' impact on human rights; (4) trade sanctions imposed on nations broadly disregarding international human rights standards; and (5)shareholder resolutions calling upon corporations to ensure their actions are conducted consistent with human rights standards.

As the expectations of companies regarding human rights have increased, so too has awareness of the business value of developing and implementing policies and practices to ensure compliance with human rights. Companies that have adopted corporate codes of conduct or other human rights principles and that have taken effective steps to enforce these policies have reaped the following benefits:

Enhanced Compliance with Local and International Laws: Human rights principles are contained in national and international law. Ensuring that business operations are consistent with these legal principles helps companies avoid legal challenges to their global activities. In recent years, U.S. courts have accepted lawsuits alleging that multinational companies have contributed to human rights violations.

Promoting Rule of Law: Promoting greater enjoyment of human rights, and avoiding business practices that violate human rights, can contribute to broader respect for the rule of law in countries where laws are often enforced arbitrarily or through corrupt legal systems. Applying human rights principles thoroughly, consistently and impartially in a company's global operations can contribute to the development of legal systems in which contracts are enforced fairly, bribery and corruption is less prevalent and all business entities have equal access to legal process and equal protection under law.

Managing the Supply Chain: Many businesses' human rights policies are designed to promote their global business partners' compliance with human rights and labor rights standards. These policies can also serve as tools to help companies select business partners which are well-managed and reliable and which operate ethically.

Protecting Brand Image: In the world marketplace, a company's image is one of its most valuable assets. As the global media focuses more attention on companies' human rights practices, well-developed and enforced corporate human rights policies help ensure that a company's brand is not associated with human rights violations.

Enhancing Risk Management: Predictability is essential to stable and productive business operations. The denial of basic human rights often leads to social or political disruption. This in turn can cause labor strife, restricted access to goods and services, or delays in the movement of finished products.

Avoiding Trade Sanctions: In the United States, both nationally and at the state level, as well as in the European Union, trade sanctions have been established or proposed for countries such as Indonesia, China or Burma that are viewed as having widespread human rights violations. Companies can help to ensure that sanctions do not limit their ability to conduct business globally by promoting greater respect for human rights in such nations.

Increasing Worker Productivity and Retention: Protection of the human rights and labor rights of employees and business partners' employees leads to increased productivity, as workers who are treated fairly and with dignity and respect are more likely to be productive. Enterprises that avoid human rights and labor rights violations can also reduce employee turnover and achieve higher product quality.

Addressing Shareholder Concerns: Shareholder groups have raised a growing number of resolutions each year calling upon companies to adopt human rights policies such as codes of conduct; cease or change operations in countries with poor human rights records, such as Burma; or address specific issues affecting the global supply chain, such as "independent monitoring" of labor practices by international suppliers. Proactively addressing these concerns helps to resolve these resolutions in a mutually satisfying manner.

Satisfying Consumer Concerns: Increased media attention to business's role in protecting human rights also has led to increased consumer awareness of the treatment of workers producing goods for the global marketplace. Polling data suggest that consumers will avoid products they associate with abusive practices or which are produced in countries viewed as committing widespread human rights abuses. Effectively addressing these issues helps to ensure that consumers do not associate a company's products with such violations.

Establishing License to Operate/Community Goodwill: A multinational's presence can be viewed locally as positive or negative. Avoiding human rights violations will help maintain positive community relations in all areas where a company has a presence or relationships, which will contribute to a more stable and productive business environment.

Avoiding Negative Campaigns: In recent years, several companies have found themselves the targets of campaigns by human rights, labor rights or religious organizations highlighting allegations of human rights abuses. Such campaigns can do lasting harm to a company's reputation, and addressing them requires substantial company resources, often at a senior level. Establishing and enforcing a meaningful approach to human rights can help to avoid such campaigns and limit their impact on the company if they occur.

Applying Corporate Values: The denial of basic human rights in ways that hinder a company's ability to conduct its business consistent with its stated values can undermine the faith of employees and external stakeholders in company integrity.

A combination of factors has coalesced to bring a rapid and significant increase in the importance of human rights for businesses. Macro-economic factors such as globalization and privatization; technological advances including developments in information technology; and the rise of stakeholder groups in both Northern and Southern nations have all contributed to a fundamental change in the perception of business' role with respect to human rights. These developments have led to fundamental changes within businesses -- both large and small -- operating in the global economy. These changes include the adoption of corporate human rights policies, increased monitoring of compliance with these policies, and the creation of a new corporate function dedicated to addressing human rights and/or labor practices.

Globalization and Privatization: In the last decade, private investment has escalated rapidly in developing countries. Multinationals have expanded operations in countries previously uninvolved in the global economy. Many such countries have poor human rights records, which can harm businesses in ways including those described above. Globalization has coincided with a period in which many nations' economies have been privatized. Human rights principles were originally established to create checks on the state's impact on the rights of individuals and groups. As the public sector has shrunk in size and importance, the traditional focus on the state's role in protecting or violating human rights has been transferred to the private sector. Consequently, businesses are now viewed as playing a critical role in determining the degree to which human rights are respected globally.

Stakeholder Groups: During the 1990s, stakeholder groups including human rights, labor, religious, shareholder, student and environmental organizations have committed greater resources and attention to corporate action on human rights. These groups, including a growing number based in developing countries, have magnified their impact on companies by: developing standards of conduct (see section below); publishing alleged violations; mounting public campaigns against individual companies; and demanding greater transparency. Many stakeholder groups also have sought to build mutual understanding and action through dialogue and partnership. Examples of stakeholder group developments include:
Human Rights Organizations: Global human rights groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Lawyers' Committee on Human Rights have focused increased attention on company action in recent years. Examples of their involvement include: (1) the Lawyers' Committee on Human Rights' participation in the Fair Labor Association, a cross-sectoral effort to develop greater respect for human rights and workers rights in the global apparel industry; (2) Amnesty International's development of proposed standards for corporations concerning human rights, and (3) Human Rights Watch's reports on issues such pregnancy discrimination in Mexico, the oil industry in Nigeria and bonded child labor in the Indian subcontinent.
Labor Organizations: Trade unions and labor rights groups have raised the public profile of corporate action on human rights by lobbying governments and international organizations on trade union rights and launching consumer campaigns against companies alleged to violate labor rights. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, based in Brussels, has worked through the International Labour Organization in calling for greater corporate accountability; the U.S.-based International Labor Rights Fund has cited countries' labor rights records in challenging countries' trade status under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), and the New York-based National Labor Committee has led campaigns against several companies accused of poor labor practices.
Corporate Accountability Organizations: Several organizations, from Global Exchange in the United States to the Clean Clothes Campaign and Global Witness in Europe have sharpened their focus on individual companies and industry in general as they have developed campaigns to highlight allegations of labor rights and human rights abuses. These groups have worked in tandem with a fast-growing number of civil society organizations in developing countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa.
Religious Organizations: Faith-based organizations in the United States and elsewhere have focused attention on several human rights issues, with particular attention on the "living wage." Several religious shareholder groups, notably the U.S.-based Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, have submitted shareholder resolutions calling on companies to increase their commitment to human rights issues (see below). Religious groups such as Christian Aid in the United Kingdom have articulated the moral dimension of human rights issues concerning businesses. Coalitions between religious organizations, trade unions and labor rights groups have become an increasingly important voice in the human rights arena.
Shareholder Groups: Shareholder activism, originally in the United States and now in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe, has often focused on human rights issues. While human rights-oriented shareholder resolutions once focused on divestment from South Africa, they have now expanded to call on companies to divest from Burma and Nigeria; adopt corporate human rights policies; conduct "independent monitoring" of their suppliers' labor practices; and address the issue of the living wage.
Consumers: Consumers have grown increasingly concerned about the conditions under which products are manufactured, extracted, and marketed. Opinion polls in the US and elsewhere have reported that consumers will avoid products which they believe to have been the product of unfair labor conditions or to have resulted from an environment in which systematic human rights abuses have occurred. Several observers have noted a rise in consumer boycotts of such products.
Student Groups: Students on college campuses across the United States have formed the "United Students Against Sweatshops" movement, one goal of which is to pressure their respective universities to adopt strict codes of conduct governing the labor practices of suppliers producing University-licensed apparel and sporting goods. Student activism has helped raise the profile of several human rights-related issues for companies as well as universities, particularly the living wage, public disclosure of supplier factory locations, and women's rights, and has resulted in the development of the Workers' Rights Consortium, which aims to promote exposure of abusive labor conditions.
Environmental Organizations: Environmental organizations are making the link between environmental degradation and human rights violations in several places around the world. These issues have arisen in particular with respect to the impact of resource extraction on the rights enjoyed by local populations, including indigenous peoples in mining locations such as Nigeria, Colombia and Papua New Guinea.
Local Organizations: The explosion of local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has been one of the most important developments in the past ten years. In countries as diverse as Indonesia, Turkey and El Salvador, local NGOs have grown in number and sophistication, and in their ability to work with groups in the United States and Europe. Local organizations are often best situated to understand issues in the local context and to provide quality information about conditions and practices.

Advances in Information Technology: The rapid growth of information technology has also served to sharpen the focus on the link between business and human rights. Just as email, cell phones and the internet speed the pace of change and facilitate the growth of global supply chains, they also speed the flow of information about a company's human rights record. A company's human rights practices in Indonesia can, for example, immediately be made known to individuals in Indiana.

Calls for Transparency: Stakeholder groups of all types are increasing their demands for transparency with respect to human rights. Specifically, these groups have called on companies to: allow transparent monitoring of their business practices; grant access to business partners' facilities for local advocacy groups; and perform social auditing and public reporting, including the disclosure of global business partners. Recently, significant efforts to develop models for corporate transparency have developed, notably the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and AA 1000, to develop benchmarks for how companies address , conduct dialogue, and report on a range of social issues, including human rights.

Government Action: Public officials have focused greater attention on the connection between business and human rights in recent years. Initiatives to promote greater business action include President Clinton's convening of the White House Apparel Industry Partnership in 1996, and the British government's support for the Ethical Trading Initiative in the United Kingdom, a cross-sectoral effort to build understanding of the impact of global supply chains on human rights and labor rights. Both the US and UK governments have promoted various initiatives to promote corporate accountability on human rights, notably in the extractive industries, and several of the Scandinavian governments have promoted similar efforts. The US and the European Union have sponsored several conferences in recent years to explore the impact of global codes of conduct. As noted above, governmental units in the US and Europe have adopted and considered trade sanctions against countries with human rights violations. The Canadian government has adopted a code of conduct for Canadian companies operating globally. The further development of trade agreements in the United States, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) for China have been hampered by concerns over human rights and labor rights conditions.

International Organization Efforts : Multilateral organizations such as the United Nations and the World Bank have stepped up efforts to promote private sector initiatives to address human rights. United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan proposed that multinational companies abide by a "Global Compact" of shared principles drawn from international human rights, labor and environmental standards at the 1999 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. World Bank officials have also engaged in initiatives bringing the private, public and nonprofit sectors together on human rights issues. One example is the World Bank's involvement in the Global Alliance for Workers and Communities, an initiative also involving companies, NGOs, and private foundations designed to improve the work and community lives of young factory workers.

Business Initiatives: In light of the developments highlighted above, companies' approaches to human rights have also evolved in recent years. Five years ago, simply having a code of conduct was considered a best practice. At the end of the 1990s, most major U.S. brand name consumer products companies had developed a code of conduct, and several had revised their original code. Other corporate human rights initiatives have included: the development of corporate efforts to monitor their and their business partners' compliance with human rights policies; the creation of dedicated human rights staff; and efforts to engage in dialogue and partnership with stakeholder groups.
Corporate Human Rights Policies: Codes of conduct that establish standards regarding the human rights and labor rights practices of overseas business partners have become a commonplace in numerous light consumer products industries -- more than 200 such companies are estimated to have adopted a code of conduct. Some companies also have adopted country selection guidelines to help them determine where and how to conduct business globally, based in part on human rights conditions. In addition, a small but growing number of companies have inserted respect for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) into their global business principles, ensuring a broader look at the intersection of business and human rights, and several large companies have expressed their support for the Global Compact and the Global Sullivan Principles, which include explicit recognition of human rights.
Corporate Human Rights Monitoring: More and more consumer products companies are monitoring compliance with human rights policies through the use of internal staff or external resources. While many companies have turned to for-profit auditors such as the Big Five accounting firms, several have initiated pilot independent monitoring projects including international and local NGOs. (See the topic overview on independent monitoring for further details of these initiatives.)
Dedicated Human Rights Staff: Just as corporations began to create separate environmental staff a generation ago, some companies in the past decade have established staff positions specifically dedicated to overseeing corporate codes of conduct compliance efforts, including training and monitoring activities.
Engagement with Stakeholder Groups: As stakeholder group interest in human rights issues has grown, so too have corporate efforts to engage in dialogue with these groups. Such engagements include information sharing and exchange; attempts to resolve disputes arising from allegations made by stakeholder groups; and the development of collaborative projects to improve corporate understanding of and action on human rights issues, including independent monitoring.
Consensus Frameworks to Address Human Rights: Several efforts have been underway in recent years to establish a common code of conduct and monitoring protocol, including the Fair Labor Association, Social Accountability 8000 (SA8000) standard, and the UK's Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI). Other efforts have focused on collaborative efforts to address discrete issues such as the use of security forces in conflict areas, and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples.

The basic foundation of human rights principles is enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations in 1948. The Universal Declaration is the basis for most other human rights principles embodied in international agreements and international law, national law, standards adopted by commercial entities, and standards proposed by stakeholder organizations.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights: The UDHR, the fundamental human rights benchmark, establishes principles on issues such as equal pay for equal work, equal protection under law, freedom of association, the right to own property, and non-discrimination. The UDHR is the basis of the work of international human rights organizations, as well as the U.S. State Department's annual report on human rights conditions in all nations. Several of the rights established in the UDHR relate specifically to business.

United Nations Covenants: Other covenants adopted by the United Nations provide additional human rights standards. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, elaborate on the principles contained in the Universal Declaration. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is an example of a U.N. convention that focuses on the specific rights enjoyed by a group of people.

International Labour Organization Conventions: The International Labour Organization (ILO), based in Geneva, is a U.N.-affiliated body that counts most nations as members. The ILO is a tripartite body (i.e., with official representation from business, government and labor) that produces conventions on issues such as child labor, forced labor and freedom of association. ILO conventions become national law when they are ratified or formally approved by national legislatures. ILO conventions have been used as the basis for many corporate codes of conduct.

ILO Tripartite Convention on Multinational Enterprises: This convention establishes principles governing the global operations of multinational companies on issues such as health and safety and non-discrimination. The convention, like others adopted through the ILO process, reflects the perspective of labor, business and government.

Global Compact: The Compact, developed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, calls on companies to adhere to human rights as defined in international treaties, as well as core labor standards as defined by the ILO. This effort has won support from businesses in all regions of the world.

Amnesty International Guidelines for Companies: The business unit of the London-based human rights group Amnesty International has established Human Rights Guidelines for Companies, a set of principles concerning the link between business and human rights. These principles call upon companies to "ensure the protection of human rights in their own operations" and "use their influence to mitigate the violation of human rights by governments, the forces of law and order or opposition groups in countries in which they operate. Specifically, the guidelines address: (1) Personnel policies and practices for the operations of a company and its global business partners; (2) Security arrangements used in the operations of a company and its global business partners, including governments; and (3) A company's responsibility for upholding, implementing and monitoring human rights standards.

Principles for Global Corporate Responsibility: Developed by the U.S.-based Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, the Canada-based Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility, and the U.K.-based Taskforce on the Churches and Corporate Responsibility, these principles are not a standard but a "collective distillation of the issues of concern" to religious-oriented institutional investors. They include principles based on international covenants regarding the rights of indigenous persons, employees and women, and refer to several international human rights agreements.

Global Sullivan Principles : The Reverend Leon Sullivan, who established the original Sullivan Principles in the 1970s aimed at promoting equal opportunity in South Africa, developed a new set of Global Sullivan Principles in 1999 to guide the global behavior of multinational companies. The Global Sullivan Principles, developed with the help of several multinationals, are a set of eight directives on labor, ethics, and environmental practices of multinational companies and their business partners. Chevron, General Motors and Colgate Palmolive are some of the companies that have signed on to the principles.

Fair Labor Association: The FLA, originally convened by President Clinton in 1996, is an organization whose members include several apparel and footwear manufacturers, more than 100 universities, and human rights, consumer, religious, shareholder and labor rights groups. The FLA developed in 1997 a Workplace Code of Conduct and Monitoring Principles addressing issues such as child labor, wages and benefits, health and safety, and freedom of association. Participating companies commit to conducting both internal and independent external monitoring of their facilities and those of their contractors, and to using independent external monitors accredited by the FLA.

Social Accountability 8000: The Council on Economic Priorities Accreditation Agency has established SA8000, a standard for assessing labor conditions in global manufacturing operations. SA8000 is modeled after the quality and environmental auditing process developed through the International Standards Organization in its ISO9000 and ISO14000 standards. SA8000 addresses issues including prison labor, wages, child labor, and health and safety, and relies on certified monitors to verify factory compliance with the standard.

China Business Principles : Two NGOs, Washington, D.C.-based International Labor Rights Fund and San Francisco's Global Exchange, developed a set of principles for companies doing business in China. Levi Strauss & Co., Mattel and Reebok have all signed on to the principles, which cover essentially the same issues as contained in many corporate codes of conduct.

Industry Associations: Several trade associations in the United States and internationally have developed codes of practice for their members. Several importers organizations such as the American Apparel Manufacturers Association (AAMA) and the World Federation of Sporting Goods Industries have established codes, and exporters groups such as the Salvadoran Apparel Manufacturers Association also have created standards as well as mechanisms to enforce these standards. The AAMA has established the Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production Program (WRAPP), which seeks to certify manufacturing facilities following inspections by certified monitors. The Norwegian Confederation of Business (NHO) has established a set of human rights guidelines for Norwegian companies operating globally, and the Danish Confederation of Business has embarked on a three-year project to develop guidelines as well.

Companies that have adopted effective human rights policies and practices have taken the following steps:

Conduct Human Rights Diagnostic: The first step is to assess how a company's operations and relationships may impact human rights. Experience demonstrates that companies in different industrial sectors may face different human rights issues. Performing a diagnostic may include a review of the human rights practices in the countries and regions in which products are manufactured, purchased, extracted or grown; the degree to which business partners operate their companies consistent with human rights practices; the views of stakeholder groups concerning the human rights records of governments in countries where the company has operations, and the types of human rights principles that are relevant to the company's operations or those of its partners. Such a diagnostic can help determine the degree to which company activities are conducted consistent with human rights principles.

Establish Formal Human Rights Policy: Companies committed to ensuring that their operations help promote respect for human rights often establish corporate human rights principles and standards. These policies vary depending on the nature of the business and the types of global business relationships the company has. At minimum, most such statements express a company's intentions to promote compliance with human rights standards in its overseas business operations. Human rights policies may take the form of codes of conduct for the global supply chain; a set of country selection principles to ensure that human rights conditions are factored into decisions about whether and how to conduct business in various countries; or inclusion of human rights in a company's global code of ethics or practice. The policy may also include a commitment to measure the company's performance or that of its business partners. As noted above, a growing number of companies are amending their global business principles to include reference to human rights. As with any effective policy, a human rights policy statement should be endorsed by the company's senior management, and/or or by its board of directors.

Make the Policy Operational: Once a policy is established, it is important to ensure that it is implemented. This typically means translating the policy into action steps for global staff. This task is made more important -- and more complicated -- by the fact that many human rights principles were originally intended to apply primarily to governments. Translating these principles into guidelines directly relevant to business is therefore critical. These can include: communicating the code to internal staff and business partners; illustrating the practical meaning of the code through descriptive guidebooks and training sessions; developing methods to monitor compliance, either by tasking and training internal staff with this function or hiring external monitors; and providing the tools and information needed to enforce the code, such as audit documents and measuring devices. Country selection guidelines can be put in practice by: identifying the situations in which the guidelines are invoked; gathering information from knowledgeable sources on human rights issues in selected countries; and ensuring that the country selection process is applied impartially.

Communicate Policy Internally and Externally: As human rights policies typically relate to multinational companies with far-flung activities and partners, communication of the policy is essential to its effective implementation. The policy should be communicated to company employees in all locations and functions; business partners such as contractors, suppliers, joint venture partners, licensees and agents; public officials whose actions affect the policy; and contractors' employees, whose rights the policy is designed to protect. The policy can also be communicated to the general public, through the company website or annual report.

Establish Internal Management Responsibility: Assigning responsibility for implementation of a corporate human rights policy and creating accountability systems can help ensure the success of the policy. Companies have assigned responsibility for human rights issues to various functions, including General Counsel; Ethics Officer; Sourcing; Operations; Government/Public/External Affairs, and Country Manager. In recent years, several companies in light consumer products sectors have created human rights staff with dedicated responsibility for overseeing the company's human rights practices.

Establish External Accountability: Many human rights violations attributed to businesses operating in the global economy stem at least in part from the actions of business partners or host governments. Effectively addressing human rights, therefore, involves establishing accountability systems for these partners. For business partners, accountability can involve requirements to establish systems to ensure respect for human rights, and/or to remediate violations should they arise; failure to do so can mean reduction or termination of the business relationship. For host governments, accountability may involve the establishment of conditions on further direct investment, with the risk of trade sanctions or international condemnation should violations occur.

Conduct Human Rights Training: Compared to some other corporate social responsibility issues, the intersection of business and human rights has been recognized for a relatively short time. Consequently, company staff may be less familiar with human rights principles and their connection to business practices. In addition, human rights issues may arise in locations with which staff are unfamiliar, or in situations which involve complex political, economic, cultural, social and other issues. To build appropriate expertise and awareness, several companies have begun to provide human rights training to staff in functions and locations where human rights issues may arise.

Measure Policy Compliance: Many companies have begun to undertake audits of compliance with their human rights policies. Internal staff, external monitors, local NGOs or a combination of the three may conduct audits. Such audits have proven extremely useful in deterring violations, identifying particular problem areas, developing remedies for policy violations and demonstrating the company's commitment to upholding human rights both to internal and external stakeholders.

Engage in Outreach: Outreach to external resources is particularly valuable due in part to the relative newness of business initiatives to address human rights. External resources can provide information, contextual understanding, training and tools that can help companies understand and act effectively on human rights. External resources include other business organizations, human rights and other stakeholder groups, national governments and international organizations.

These "leadership" practices have been chosen as illustrative examples in the area of corporate social responsibility addressed by this topic overview. They are intended to represent innovation, higher than average commitment, unusual industry practice or a comprehensive approach to this issue. Periodically, the examples listed may be changed. If you wish to share information about your company's leadership practices or policies, please press the "feedback" button on the bottom right of this screen and provide the relevant information. (Many of the company examples and policies cited in this report have been verified and approved. Final approvals for others are pending and information will be modified if necessary.)

Royal Dutch Shell : In 1997, Shell became the first petrochemical company to formally incorporate respect for human rights into the company's Global Business Principles. Following a round of criticism of its activities and those of other oil companies operating in Nigeria, Shell engaged in a series of global dialogues with stakeholder groups. This process led the company to adopt its revised Global Business Principles, and to undertake a full social audit, including a review of its work on human rights issues. The results of this audit were published in a report called "People, Planet, and Profits," which Shell made publicly available on its website. The Shell website also encourages and facilitates direct feedback on the company's practices, including those relating to human rights. (Large, Chemical/Refining, United Kingdom)

Rio Tinto : Rio Tinto, the Anglo-Australian mining company, has engaged professional anthropologists to assess the impact of their activities on local communities, an assessment process that includes attention to the rights of indigenous persons. (Large, Mining, United Kingdom-Australia)

Global Alliance for Workers : This partnership, launched by Nike, Mattel, the World Bank, the International Youth Foundation, the John D. And Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and St. John's University seeks to improve the workplace and build the life skills, vocational skills, academic skills, and confidence of young adult factory workers. Launched in April 1999, the program is currently operating in Nike and Mattel factories in Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, reaching a total of over 50,000 workers. Local universities and development organizations carry out extensive interviews of workers to assess their needs and concerns and then specific programs in education, health, vocational skills training and self-empowerment are developed for each factory. The Global Alliance is also exploring assessment partners in China and the Philippines to begin programs there and plans to expand to Latin America, Eastern Europe and Northern Africa. (Large, Apparel/Footwear, Toy, US)

Reebok International Ltd. : Reebok was the first company to create a separate human rights function. Reebok's Vice President for Human Rights Programs oversees the company's efforts to monitor its contractors' labor practices, including the delivery of internal human rights training, outreach to stakeholder groups and the development of innovative programs including a recent initiative inviting an Indonesian NGO to examine conditions in a Reebok footwear factory. In addition, Reebok's Vice President for Human Rights oversees the company's annual human rights award, given to persons under 30 who make a substantial contribution to the advancement of human rights. A selection committee composed of human rights activists and company representatives determines the winners of this award. Recent awards have been given to persons addressing women's rights, torture victims, and victims of military repression. Reebok also supports the Lawyers' Committee on Human Rights' Witness Program, which arms human rights groups with the tools of mass communication such as video cameras and fax machines, and has made prime-time advertising available to Amnesty International USA. (Large, Apparel/Shoes/Textiles, United States)

The Brazilian Association of Toy Manufacturers : The Brazilian Association of Toy Manufacturers promotes the enforcement of children's rights through the Abrinq Foundation for Children's Rights, which the Association established in 1990. The Association operates the Foundation through the financial contributions from nearly 3,000 companies. Abrinq's activities include influencing public policy on children's rights, financing educational opportunities for children, and providing technical assistance and funds to community development programs that aid children, including libraries and clinics. Abrinq also launched the Child Friendly Company Program in 1995, which includes a labeling system. To qualify for the label, companies must formally commit to respect Brazil's minimum age of 14, communicate their commitment throughout their supply chain, submit to investigations of their commitment, and support a program dedicated to the educational or social development of children.

Mattel, Inc.: Though not the first company to engage independent monitors to assess compliance with the company's code of conduct, Mattel, Inc. has distinguished itself by becoming the first global consumer products company to apply an independent monitoring system to all of its company-owned and core contractor facilities worldwide and by committing to publish results of these monitoring activities at least annually. As part of the independent monitoring system, the company established an independent monitoring council which helped company staff create Mattel's Global Manufacturing Principles and which has begun to conduct a series of audits of conditions in plants that produce Mattel products. Results of the first audits, conducted in China, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, were made public in a report issued in November 1999. Human rights advocacy groups have commended Mattel for undertaking the audit and publishing results of its findings, while cautioning that the council's recommendations must be heeded. (Large, Toy, United States)

Starbucks Coffee Co. : In 1996, Starbucks adopted a "Framework for a Code of Conduct," which articulates the company's commitment to "respect human rights and dignity." The company became the first U.S.-based agricultural commodity company to adopt such a statement, which includes reference to forced labor, freedom of association and child labor as well as environmental and community development issues. The Framework is being implemented through partnerships with organizations like CARE to support community development projects in countries including Indonesia, Kenya and Guatemala from which Starbucks sources coffee beans. (Small/Midsize, Food, United States)

Levi Strauss & Co. : Country Assessment Guidelines: "The diverse cultural, social, political, and economic circumstances of the various countries where Levi Strauss & Co. has existing or future business interests raise issues that could subject our corporate reputation and therefore, our business success, to potential harm. The Country Assessment Guidelines are intended to help us assess these issues. The Guidelines are tools that assist us in making practical and principled business decisions as we balance the potential risks and opportunities associated with conducting business in a particular country. In making these decisions, we consider the degree to which our global corporate reputation and commercial success may be exposed to unreasonable risk. Specifically, we assess whether the:

Brand Image would be adversely affected by a country's perception or image among our customers and/or consumers;
Health and Safety of our employees and their families, or our company representatives would be exposed to unreasonable risk;
Human Rights Environment would prevent us from conducting business activities in a manner that is consistent with the Global Sourcing Guidelines and other company policies;
Legal System would prevent us from adequately protecting our trademarks, investments or other commercial interests, or from implementing the Global Sourcing Guidelines and other company policies; and
Political, Economic and Social Environment would threaten the company's reputation and/or commercial interests.

In making these assessments, we take into account the various types of business activities and objectives proposed (e.g., procurement of fabric and sundries, sourcing, licensing, direct investments in subsidiaries) and, thus, the accompanying level of risk involved. (Large, Apparel/Shoes/Textiles, United States)

Nike : Nike's child labor policy: "Contractor certifies that it does not employ any person below the age of 18 to produce footwear, or below the age of 16 to produce apparel, accessories or equipment; or does not employ any person under the legal minimum age where local standards are higher." (Large, Sporting Goods, United States)

Starbucks Coffee Co. : Framework for A Code of Conduct: "We respect human rights and dignity. We believe that people should work because they want or need to, but not because they are forced to do so. We believe that people have the right to freely associate with whichever organizations or individuals they choose. We believe that children should not be unlawfully employed as laborers." (Small/Midsize, Food, United States)

British Petroleum : BP's Business Principles state, "We support the principles set forth in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, recognizing the role and enforcement responsibilities of governments. We will treat people according to merit and contribution, refrain from coercion and never deliberately do harm to anyone." (Large, Chemical/Refining, United Kingdom)

Placer Dome : Placer Dome's policy on sustainability states with regards to indigenous people, "Contribute to the quality of life of employees, local communities and host countries, while respecting their cultures, needs and priorities:
Recognize and respect the importance of the land, and traditional knowledge, to local indigenous or aboriginal communities and be sensitive to their cultural distinctiveness." (Large, Mining, Canada)

The Council on Economic Priorities' Corporate Conscience Award has been given to business organizations such as the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, Toys R Us, and Starbucks Coffee Co. for their efforts to ensure compliance with human rights principles.

The National Consumers' League's award has been given to companies for their efforts to promote human rights. In 1997, this award was given to Liz Claiborne Inc. for its efforts co-chairing the White House Apparel Industry Partnership (see above).


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