Ethics of Human Rights

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Businesses have a beneficial role to play in promoting human rights and this page outlines how human rights is part of an ethical system. Human rights challenges are industry-specific.

Human Rights

Human rights challenges are rarely unique to individual companies, but they are typically similar for an entire sector. Identifying the most critical human rights risks per sector ensures that each company works on the most material human rights issues through their core business operations.

For example, companies in the manufacturing sector need to focus on ensuring compliance with labor standards in their global supply chains, while Information Communications Technology ICT companies need to discuss how they ensure the rights to freedom of expression and privacy through or despite their core business models. Standards are a prerequisite for measuring and reporting human rights progress.

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Examples of Rights Based Ethics

A commonly accepted standard prevents companies from picking easy and marginal human rights topics while ignoring critical ones. It ensures comparability and enables public accountability. Defining a human rights standard and operationalizing this standard into measurable indicators thus needs to be the first step of any serious corporate commitment to human rights.

Collective efforts drive better outcomes. Practically speaking, addressing human rights means setting substantive human rights standards in a given industry, supported by a common framework for implementation.

Companies in the same industry are more effective when they work together. Common standards ensure a level playing field that makes it more difficult for free riders. This standard-setting process should be inclusive and integrate the perspectives of all stakeholders that are relevant for addressing a specific human rights challenge.


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Industry-specific human rights standards defined and enforced through MSIs create an enabling environment within which the business case for human rights becomes easy to make. Industry-specific human rights standards create a level-playing field for all actors in one industry and aligns them around long-term objectives. Companies that disrespect the standards will be subject to scrutiny from industry-peers and the public.

Companies that excel at human rights implementation over time are then able to communicate their successes and gain trust with consumers and investors. In contrast to a business case that is based upon an individual differentiation strategy, a business case within an MSI framework is systematic because it sets incentives for all players to raise the bar. It also gives industry participants greater leverage to shape regulatory reform see, for example, the efforts of the Global Network Initiative on surveillance reform.

Business and human rights is distinct from the broadly defined CSR concept. A business and human rights approach focuses on aligning core business activities with human rights standards. Corporate social responsibility typically focuses on enhancing brand value through marketing a broad range of activities such as community development, environmental protection, corporate philanthropy, and perhaps attention to human rights.

One Beginner Tip For Ethics & Human Rights

CSR is thus broader and less specific than a business and human rights framework. In each industry it is imperative for companies to assess the risks they face and then to play a key role in deciding what are realistic and credible industry-specific standards to respond to these risks. Companies that are seriously committed to respecting human rights are in it for the long-haul. They learn over time how to implement their commitment to human rights within their organizations and in collaboration with external stakeholders.

August 13, Companies that are serious about systematically implementing respect for human rights through their business conduct make efforts to align their organizational structures and procedures with such a commitment.

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They design systems with aligned incentives structures, specialized training programs, new reporting lines and innovative discussion fora, grievance procedures and complaints mechanisms. Only if such organizational systems are in place, human rights risks are identified and addressed on a routine-basis, through core business processes. Companies that commit to sustainable business practices on human rights have more reliable work environments and greater consistency in production.

Longitudinal studies of Nike and Puma could be used as teaching tools, to show how their human rights programs have given these companies more sustainable business models and made them better prepared to tackle new business challenges:. Locke, R. Baumann, D. Companies that are working together with others in their industry are helping to define industry standards, metrics to evaluate compliance with these standards and practical ways to implement these standards successfully, for example:.

Nolan, J. Labowitz, S.

Ethics and Human Rights in Anglophone African Women’s Literature

Competitors that collaborate to address human rights challenges are more effective in making a difference:. Establishing a multi-dimensional understanding of "business sustainability" that fully integrates human rights. While making a case for the high value and liberating power of the idea and ideal of human rights, objections, controversies and uncertainties are not at all overlooked and emerging issues are explored.

The diversity of content of this volume meets many needs of the typical syllabus for a human rights course. Because of its unique achievement in conceptualising human rights studies, Ethics of Human Rights is essential for masters or doctoral students as a departure point for research in political philosophy or human rights education.

JavaScript is currently disabled, this site works much better if you enable JavaScript in your browser. Law International, Foreign and Comparative Law. Free Preview. Buy eBook. Buy Hardcover. Buy Softcover. FAQ Policy. About this book This volume focuses on the ethical significance of human rights, aiming at contributing to a universal culture of human rights with deep roots and wide horizons.

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