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Business Learning

We provide expert advice for a small group of companies that are serious about human rights and use what we learn to help build broader understanding.

Business Learning

Through our Business Learning program, we work with a select number of companies that we believe are serious about implementing the Guiding Principles. Participants come from different industries and different regions of the world and face very different human rights challenges. They typically work with us over two to three years.

The purpose of this program is to foster leading practice by companies and to gain insight, both for ourselves, for participants and for the wider business and human rights community, about how to implement the Guiding Principles. Insights gained through this program also inform all of our other activities with governments, civil society and international organizations – our direct work with companies helps us know where we can push for better practices more widely. We also bring our learning from this program to broader audiences via our curated resources library.

 Participants at Shift's November 2014 workshop for members of the Business Learning program.

The program combines:

  • Tailored advice and support to each participant on agreed priorities for implementing the Guiding Principles over the course of a year;
  • Collective, cross-industry workshops and discussions that explore shared challenges in implementing the corporate responsibility to respect in an in-depth and frank setting. These workshops are hosted jointly with the Corporate Responsibility Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School. 

“Shift has proven to be an instrumental partner to us in driving the integration of human rights management within the H&M Group. I particularly appreciate the dialogue and development of useful tools that will help us in our daily work to respect human rights throughout our value chain.” – Anna Gedda, Head of Sustainability, H&M

Our tailored advice and support for each participant is guided by a jointly created annual workplan focused on key areas where the company needs to advance on implementing the Guiding Principles. Since our approach is grounded in building others’ capacity, we do not “do the work” for the company – for example, we do not carry out human rights impact assessments or write sustainability reports. Instead, we are focused on guiding companies through learning and dialogue processes that build their capacity to implement core methodologies, usually involving staff from a range of departments. Examples of the types of work we frequently do with companies include convening a cross-functional group of staff to identify and prioritize the company’s leading human rights risks; reviewing a company’s approach to stakeholder engagement and then leading an interactive training with country teams about how to improve it; or facilitating a discussion amongst a company’s senior executives about addressing the company’s human rights risks.

While we do charge for participation in this program, we are not a consultancy or auditing firm and do not work with every company that approaches us. Prior to a company joining the Business Learning program, we have in-depth, often in-person, discussions with leaders from the business about the company’s approach to human rights. This helps both us and the company understand if a collaboration is the right choice. We are looking for a serious commitment from the company on implementing the Guiding Principles as well as organizational capacity to do so, and we have a set of board-approved criteria we apply when making decisions about a company’s participation in the program.

Current Participants

ABN AMRO | BHP Billiton | The Coca-Cola Company | Ericsson | Equinor | Fujitsu | H&M | HEINEKEN | Hitachi | Inditex | NEXT | PepsiCo | Sime Darby | Total | Unilever | UPM | Wells Fargo

See all activities and content related to this program

Supporting Financial Institutions to Implement the Guiding Principles

August 2016 | Partners: public and private financial institutions, including individual export credit agencies, development finance institutions and private banks

We're working directly with financial institutions and policymakers to build understanding of how the UN Guiding Principles can help financial institutions better manage risks to people arising from the projects and clients that they finance.

Human Rights Due Diligence in High Risk Circumstances

March 2015 | Shift

This resource focuses on how to do human rights due diligence in high risk circumstances – and how to identify those circumstances in the first place.

Remediation, Grievance Mechanisms and the Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights

May 2014 | Shift

This resource reviews what companies are expected to do to provide remedy when human rights impacts have already occurred, whether in their own operations or in their value chains, in line with the Guiding Principles.

Using Leverage in Business Relationships to Reduce Human Rights Risks

November 2013 | Shift

This resource walks readers through how a company can systematically and strategically influence the behavior of others, including in its value chain, when seeking to prevent or address human rights risks.

Bringing a Human Rights Lens to Stakeholder Engagement

August 2013 | Shift

This resource helps companies understand what the Guiding Principles expect when they use the term “meaningful stakeholder engagement" and summarizes particular aspects of stakeholder engagement that are critical for implementing the Guiding Principles.

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