Human rights at work

Are human rights a company’s business?


In this age of globalization, most companies often buy or sell products, raw materials, services in many different countries. Multinationals even have their own operations in all these countries–including countries where international norms protecting labour rights and human rights are not respected. How can a company be certain that their own policies, procedures and operations are not causing,– or contributing or linking to–human rights violations? So the answer is YES, human rights part of almost every company’s business. Human Rights @Work provides expertise advice and training on human rights issues in the business context.


What are human rights?

Human rights are the rights people have by virtue of being human. This does not only concern laws prohibiting torture, or the rights to freedom of speech. Internationally recognized human rights have been laid down in international treaties. Labour rights are the most well-known human rights relevant for companies, including the right for employees to organise themselves, the prohibition of child labour, and discrimination. Less well-known are the rights that surrounding communities, indigenous people may have.


Labour Rights Community rights


The business case:

The benefits companies gain by respecting human rights:

  • A more competitive market position. Clients are demanding it, government tenders require it.
  • Involved employees, proud to be working for a responsible company.
  • Improved access to credit. Human rights are part of the ESG criteria investors look at, often making it a condition for investment.
  • Cost saving. Companies that are proactively respecting human rights avoid costs resulting from disputes with dissatisfied stakeholders.
  • Reputation management. Violation of human rights has an enormous impact on a company’s reputation.
  • Risk management, limiting liability

What is a company’s impact on human rights? Is social compliance with the code of conduct sufficient to prevent human rights being violated? Which suppliers and other business relations may be at risk of violating human rights? And many other questions. Please contact