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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

Human Rights Translated: A Business and Reference Guide

November 2008 | Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University, International Business Leaders Forum, and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

This comprehensive, baseline resource for businesses lays out what human rights are and how businesses can impact them.

Protect, Respect and Remedy: A Framework for Business and Human Rights

April 2008 | John G. Ruggie; UN Human Rights Council

This report was submitted by John Ruggie to the UN Human Rights Council in 2008 and establishes the three-pillar framework for the Guiding Principles: protect, respect, remedy. It is not the Guiding Principles but helps to explain the rationale for them.

Mapping Grievance Mechanisms in the Business and Human Rights Arena

January 2008 | Caroline Rees, David Vermijs; Corporate Responsibility Initiative, Harvard Kennedy School

This report analyzes the existing grievance mechanisms from companies, industry groups, multistakeholder initiatives, national human rights institutions, national labor dispute systems, development banks and international institutions.

Stakeholder Engagement: A Good Practice Handbook for Companies Doing Business in Emerging Markets

May 2007 | International Finance Corporation

This foundational guidance from the International Finance Corporation offers a comprehensive overview of how companies should engage with stakeholders, particularly potentially affected people.

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