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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

How to Use the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in Company Research and Advocacy: A Guide for Civil Society Organisations

November 2012 | Mariëtte van Huijstee, Victor Ricco, Laura Ceresna-Chaturvedi; Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), Center for Human Rights and Environment (CEDHA), Cividep India

This guide is authored by leading civil society organizations in Argentina, India and the Netherlands.

Are There Risks in Knowing and Showing?

October 2012 | John S. Sherman III; Shift

Former corporate lawyer and Shift General Counsel John Sherman argues that potential concerns about conducting human rights due diligence are more than offset by the benefits of doing it.

Advising the International Council of Toy Industries on Alignment with the Guiding Principles

October 2012 | Partners: ICTI CARE Foundation

Shift conducted a high-level gap analysis designed to review and assess the general strengths and weaknesses of ICTI CARE processes against the Guiding Principles.

Corporate Culture and Conflict Management in the Extractive Industries: A Study in Peru

September 2012 | Caroline Rees, Deanna Kemp, Rachel Davis; Corporate Responsibility Initiative, Harvard Kennedy School

This study examines company policies and processes for and attitudes towards company-community conflict in the extractives sector in Peru.

Respecting Human Rights Through Global Supply Chains

August 2012 | Shift

This resource examines how companies can implement the Guiding Principles throughout their supply chains, including identifying and prioritizing risks, using their leverage, understanding the role of auditing and supporting grievance mechanisms.

Implications of the Guiding Principles for the Fair Labor Association

July 2012 | Shift

This analysis by Shift reviews the implications of the Guiding Principles for the work of the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a multistakeholder initiative focusing on workers’ rights.

Embedding Respect for Human Rights

June 2012 | Shift

This resource captures and distills company reflections on what it takes to embed respect for human rights into corporate culture, including senior management buy-in, balancing competing priorities and effective communication.

Embedding the Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights Within Company Culture

June 2012 | Rick Relinger; Shift

This paper analyzes how corporate culture evolves and changes, and identifies stumbling blocks and lessons for success for companies seeking to make respect for human rights part of their corporate culture and they do business every day.

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