Business and Human Rights
Feb 13, 2015
On Friday 13th February, we co-hosted a workshop with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Business and Human Rights. The workshop is part of an ongoing consultation by the Department as it drafts a National Plan on Business and Human Rights as required by the UN Guiding Principles. While the consultation has been open for a while, there has yet to be any real engagement from business and today’s workshop went some way to fostering collaboration between business and Government on this issue.
There was a range of excellent speakers – too many to list here – but what struck me most is how many of the same issues were raised by various different speakers and attendees. What is the relationship between human rights and CSR? Are they part of the same idea or mutually exclusive? How do we encourage smaller businesses to embrace the issues of human rights and business? How can we make the National Plan accessible to everyone and successful?
I noted a few important take aways from today’s discussion. The National Plan must be a collaborative process between businesses, the State and civil society – not something to be communicated ‘at’ businesses. It should be relevant to business and framed in the language of business. While CSR and human rights might be two separate issues, companies can tackle them in harmony. Companies that embrace CSR more than likely already have positive human rights policies in place. Many companies already undertake human rights due diligence but don’t see it or label it as such. Much of what was discussed highlighted that businesses have a wealth of knowledge in this area and it is vital that this knowledge is shared.
The comment that resonated most was made by John Devitt of Transparency Ireland – “We need to realise that businesses can’t do this on their own”. So many businesses have taken the lead in valuing human rights but they need the support of all actors. This National Plan marks the Government’s commitment to supporting business in this space but it must be a collaborative process. So make a submission to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as we work to tackle this issue together. This can be done by emailing email@example.com by 1st March.
I’d like to leave you with a thought that should be relevant to all business from one of this morning’s speakers, Leslee O’Loughlin of Enterprise Rent-A-Car – “If we do the right thing every day, our business will be successful”.