A new international lobby group has been formed to pressure governments to introduce regulations around companies’ impacts on human rights.

The group, called the Investor Alliance for Human Rights, is comprised of 105 international investors representing $5trn in assets under management.

They have issued a statement making the “investor case” for regulations requiring companies to measure corporate accountability for human rights violations, as voluntary measures currently leave significant gaps in protections.

Also known as ‘human rights due diligence’, this is a continuation of established risk management processes to identify the most severe risks to human rights and to business, including reputational harm, financial loss, and legal liabilities.

The Investor Alliance for Human Rights is a coalition of asset managers, public pension funds and faith-based investors from 13 countries. The group’s statement is to be sent to government contacts across the represented regions, including policymakers in the EU, US, and Canada.

Phil Bloomer, executive director at the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, an international research organisation, said the issue had been amplified by the COVID-19 crisis.

“Results are showing that responsible companies perform better in the pandemic – for their workers and suppliers as well as for their investors,” he said.

“The investor voice is now critical to persuade governments to set human rights due diligence as a minimum floor of corporate behaviour.”

Paul Tang, a Dutch member of the European Parliament, supported the initiative and said governments had “a crucial role to play” in creating a “sustainable and fair society”.

“The public sector should take charge and ensure all companies care for people, before thinking of making a profit,” he added.

Steve Waygood, chief responsible investment officer at Aviva Investors – one of the groups forming this coalition – said mandatory rules were necessary due to a lack of sufficient reporting.

“The Corporate Human Rights Benchmark shows that a large number of high impact companies are failing to report on any human rights due diligence at all, despite detailed guidance produced by the United Nations almost a decade ago,” he said.

“It is important that governments introduce meaningful mandatory human rights due diligence regimes, particularly for large companies in high impact sectors.”

Last Updated: 30 April 2020
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