How do governments and international organisations use the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark?

The Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) provides governments and multilateral organisations with an overview of the policies, processes, and practices businesses have in place to systematise their human rights approach, or the lack thereof. These results can enable policymakers to signal gaps in the human rights disclosure of national companies, which can in turn inform policy priorities. Similarly, when new business and human rights legislation or revisions are applied, the CHRB can be used to track their effectiveness overtime. Here are some examples of how governments and multilateral organisations have used the CHRB in the past.

1. To identify gaps in performance and inform policy priorities

European Commission

In January 2020 the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, Civic Consulting and LSE Consulting published a study for the European Commission focusing on due diligence requirements throughout the supply chain. The study cited results from the CHRB to support the claim that many companies fail to demonstrate having an adequate human rights due diligence process in place, which helped to support the overall conclusion that “current due diligence practices are significantly insufficient to address human rights and environmental impacts”:

Despite the influence of the UNGPs, the actual implementation of due diligence obligations for human rights and environmental impacts by businesses has been very poor in practice. For example, in 2018, the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark assessment […] found that a majority of companies scored poorly on the Benchmark, with 40% of companies scoring no points at all across the diligence indicator section of the assessment.

When gaps in corporate human rights performance are identified by policy makers, they can inform policy priorities. Identifying a gap in the corporate uptake of human rights due diligence a decade after the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business Human Rights (UNGPs) were implemented, was a key reason for the European Commission to explore new regulation requiring mandatory due diligence.

2. To track the effectiveness of policy decisions

In 2021, the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights published a report that took stock of the implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights a decade after its launch. The report discusses corporate uptake of the UNGPs, and the role benchmarks play in tracking progress and encouraging better performance:

While there is no comprehensive survey on corporate respect for human rights, studies, benchmarks and ratings that have developed over the course of the past decade point in the same direction: progress but room for progress. For example, the 2020 Corporate Human Rights Benchmark assesses the public human rights disclosures of 229 global companies. Its results show that a growing number of companies are taking up the Guiding Principles, with commitments and procedures described as strong and rigorous. However, still too few companies manage their responsibility robustly. For example, 46.2 per cent of all companies assessed in 2020 failed to score any points under the benchmark’s due diligence indicators.

3. To keep specific topics on the policy agenda

United Kingdom House of Lords

The 2020 CHRB was used to highlight concerns over corporate respect for human rights during a UK House of Lords Session in November 2020. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development office was asked “what, if any, assessment the office has made of the report by the CHRB (…) and what steps it plans to take to address the findings”. The response was:

The UK Government welcomes the fourth iteration of the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark Report. It is disappointing to see that only a minority of companies demonstrate a willingness to take human rights seriously and go beyond creating policies and commitments, to taking practical steps in addressing human rights violations. The UK Government is already taking action to advance this agenda, ensuring that companies comply with the UN Guiding Principles of Business and Human Rights.

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