Corporations are integral to ensuring that fundamental human rights are upheld because they can impact almost the entire spectrum of human rights. While human rights treaties do not impose direct obligations on companies, it is recognized and accepted, following the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, that business enterprises have a responsibility to both respect internationally recognized human rights and address adverse human rights impact when they occur.
The actions of business enterprises can affect the human rights of employees, customers, workers in supply chains and communities surrounding their operations. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights sets out due diligence procedures which business enterprises should undertake to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address their adverse human rights impacts. The process includes assessing actual and potential human rights impacts, integrating and acting upon the findings, tracking responses and communicating how impacts are addressed.
Companies may, directly or indirectly, contribute to human rights violations by supporting illegitimate government policies and taking advantage of policies or laws that violate human rights. Where government policies violate human rights, companies should take care when operating in that jurisdiction, and take steps to implement internal policies that respect human rights, despite national rules that may permit violations. If adverse human rights impacts do occur through their business activities, companies must address these through appropriate grievance mechanisms.