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Respect

Businesses everywhere have a responsibility to respect human rights throughout their activities and business relationships. That means avoiding infringing on the rights of people, and addressing negative impacts where the business caused or contributed to them.

Pillar II: Business Responsibility to Respect

The second pillar of the Guiding Principles provides a blueprint for businesses to prevent and address negative human rights impacts. This blueprint is made up of eight elements — click on the elements below to explore each one. 

As companies implement the eight elements, they should also keep in mind these overarching concepts:

  • The “blueprint” of the Guiding Principles is a risk management approach – but the focus is on risk to people, not just risk to the business;
  • The responsibility to respect human rights extends throughout a company’s own operations and all of its business relationships throughout its value chain;
  • Compliance with local law may not be sufficient to meet the expectations of the Guiding Principles;
  • Companies cannot offset negative impacts on people by “doing good,” such as through philanthropy or staff volunteering.


1. Commit

Making a public statement

2. Embed

Making respect part of company culture

3. Assess

Moving from reactive to proactive

4. Act

Walking the talk

5. Track

Knowing if it worked

6. Communicate

Explaining the company's efforts

7. Engage

Conducting meaningful dialogue

8. Remediate

Ensuring early warning and effective solutions

When Counseling Clients on Risk, Lawyers Need to Take a Proactive Approach on Human Rights

February 2018 | John F. Sherman III

Developments in the legal profession in regards to providing counsel to corporate clients on preventing human rights impacts continue to advance, most recently in Europe.

Exploring Respect for Human Rights as a Driver for Business Action on Sustainable Development

December 2017 | Partners: Danish Institute for Human Rights

This collaborative project will equip and inspire companies to adopt coherent sustainable development strategies by embracing the power of initiatives that drive respect for human rights across operations and value chains.

Open Letter on Human Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals

September 2017

In collaboration with leading civil society organizations, we call on UN Secretary-General António Guterres and United Nations Private Sector Forum 2017 participants to connect sustainable development with business respect for human rights.

Handbook for Lawyers on Business and Human Rights

July 2017 | International Bar Assocation

This handbook, published by the International Bar Association, aims to assist lawyers who seek to integrate business and human rights considerations into the advice they provide to clients in relation to M&A and commercial transactions.

Shift Submission on Potential Modern Slavery Act in Australia

June 2017 | Shift

In May 2017 we submitted a position statement to the Australian government regarding its consideration of creating a regulation on business responsibility related to modern slavery.

Respect for Human Rights: Creating a Holistic Framework for Business Contributions to the SDGs

May 2017 | Caroline Rees

This short framework for analysis and action offers a straightforward way for any company to work out how it should and can contribute to sustainable development.

Human Rights Reporting: Are Companies Telling Investors What They Need to Know?

May 2017 | Michelle Langlois, Shift; supported by the UK Department for International Development, EY and Hermes Investment Management

This research assesses 74 of the world's largest companies for their maturity in reporting on human rights.

NBIM Workshop Report: Implementing the UN Guiding Principles

January 2017 | Shift | Partners: Norges Bank Investment Management

Summary report from a workshop facilitated by Shift for Norges Bank Investment Management and investee companies

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