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Organizing the Human Rights Function Within a Company

This UN Global Compact good practice note examines different models for how companies assign responsibility for human rights within the company, and compares relative merits of each model.

May 2014 | Shift; UN Global Compact | Pages: 16

This resource is based on Shift’s experience working with companies from diverse sectors and contexts. The summary is excerpted from the resource.

Summary

In order to deliver on a company’s commitment to respect human rights, individual people within the company need to know their specific role in making that commitment a reality. The commitment has to be embedded into employees’ day-to-day activities.

So how do companies choose to assign that responsibility? Who leads and who implements? How do they coordinate their efforts? Who is ultimately accountable for their success?

This analysis reviews real company practice and identifies four general models for how companies organize human rights responsibility. These models include:

  • Cross-functional working groups, which bring together relevant business functions in a collective platform to address and manage a company’s human rights risks;
  • Hosting a “guide dog” function within existing business departments, where the focus is typically on awareness-raising, information-sharing, support and guidance in helping relevant business units meet the enterprise’s overall responsibility to respect human rights;
  • Legal and/or compliance-driven “guard dog” models, which place greater emphasis on oversight, compliance and accountability for implementation;
  • Separate responsibilities allocated across different departments, through which various departments, based on their respective areas of expertise, assume responsibility for different aspects of the company’s responsibility to respect human rights.

To help readers understand which model – or combination of models – may be most valuable for their company, this resource reviews the models’ relative merits and limitations based on real company experience.

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