February 2016 | Shift and Mazars; UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework
This resource was developed in support of the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework, developed jointly by Shift and Mazars. The Q&A on this page is an excerpt from a longer Q&A on salient human rights issues -- see the full explanation here.
Something that is salient is prominent or important. It stands out conspicuously.
Salient human rights issues: The human rights at risk of the most severe negative impact through the company’s activities and business relationships.
A company’s salient human rights issues are those human rights that stand out because they are at risk of the most severe negative impact through the company’s activities or business relationships.
This concept of salience uses the lens of risk to people, not the business, as the starting point, while recognizing that where risks to people’s human rights are greatest, there is strong convergence with risk to the business.
The emphasis of salience lies on those impacts that are:
Salience therefore focuses the company’s resources on finding information that is necessary for its own ability to manage risks to human rights, and related risks to the business. In this way, it helps companies report on the human rights information that shareholders, investors, governments, customers, consumers, media, civil society organizations and directly affected people want to see.
Materiality depends on the choice of a particular audience or goal for which things are then judged more or less important. The audience may be shareholders alone or other stakeholders as well. A goal may be profit-making alone, decisions of an investor more widely, or societal welfare generally. The choice of audience or goal then dictates the selection of material issues.
By contrast, salient human rights issues are not defined in reference to any one audience or goal. Salience puts the focus on those human rights at risk of the most severe negative impact. This provides a consistent, predictable and principled means of identifying the appropriate focus of human rights reporting. At the same time, it gives business an effective tool for understanding how human rights issues connect with risk to the business.
When conducting materiality assessments, many companies discount human rights issues due to common assumptions, such as:
Where materiality processes engage external stakeholders to help inform the company’s understanding of relevant issues for reporting, common pitfalls include:
As a result of these common assumptions and pitfalls, many companies’ existing materiality processes fail to adequately reflect human rights issues or to identify those human rights that are at greatest risk and are therefore priorities for management and reporting.
Jump to the complete Q&A resource to see answers to the following questions: