Published on 15 December 2018


Human Rights: less than 5% of global corporations show tangible action

The Declaration of human rights is 70 years old this December 10th. However, despite international texts and local regulations, the issue of human rights remains poorly apprehended by large companies worldwide, according to a study published by the extra-financial rating agency Vigeo Eiris.

On average, companies get 33/100 on commitments to respect human rights in their workplaces, activities and supply chain.
@Adek Berry/AFP

Respect for trade union rights, the consent of local populations, respect for privacy and property rights, fight against child labor, non-discrimination... Human rights concern companies, but these are not always the height.

"Seventy years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and seven years after the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, this area remains one of the themes of social responsibility and a field of risk among the least taken into account by companies," warns the extra-financial rating agency Vigeo-Eiris.

The results obtained by 4,585 listed companies surveyed in 60 countries are not good (1). On average, they score 33/100 on commitments to respect human rights in their workplaces, activities and supply chains. A score that means that they "fail to meet the minimum requirements" to be respected according to the international reference texts.

France at the top of the ranking

Only 5% of companies display "tangible commitments". That is to say, with "visible, exhaustive, precise objectives, supported by appropriate structures and high-level leaders, in support of documented means with controls, complaints and complaints, dedicated tools for risk mapping and reporting ".

Most companies do not provide explanations or indicators on the nature, scope and modalities of their risk management system. Disparities are relatively high between companies, with scores ranging from 0 to 88/100, and between countries.

In this game, France is in the lead. The tricolor companies are subject to ESG reporting (environmental, social and governance criteria) for a decade and to the law on due diligence. The latter asks them to draw up a plan mapping human rights risks and reporting on the measures put in place to prevent and mitigate them.

Less than 50% of controversial companies react

The weakest sectors, according to the study, are tobacco, financial services related to real estate, specialized distribution and food. "Adept outsourcing and not very proactive on risk management", they get less than 30/100. Another ranking, Know the Chain (2) also highlights the low scores of the clothing and footwear industry which, despite the various scandals, have so far "failed to eliminate the exploitation of vulnerable workers in their value chain".

In contrast, development banks and bank branches are getting the best scores. They reach about 50/100. Scores, however, remain relatively low for beachheads. 90% of the sectors of activity obtain between 24 and 37/100.

In the case of controversy - more than 1,300 identified in 2018, affecting mainly diversified banks and the mining sector - nearly half of the companies do not respond to allegations. Only 1.4% of the companies involved are proactive and 7% take corrective action.

"To make globalization both sustainable and desirable for all stakeholders, companies will have to change from a passive attitude to a better understanding of the link between their own interest and respect for human rights," concluded Fouad Benseddik, director of methods of Vigeo Eiris.

Beatrice Heraud @beatriceheraud

(1) The study is available in English

(2) Know the chain, an initiative of Humanity United Business and Human Rights Resource Center. The 2018 ranking is available here.

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