Three Human Rights Risks Companies Overlook
As companies navigate the complex landscape of human rights, they tend to focus on the most visible and well-known human rights risks, or on the ones the law requires them to focus on.
However, there are numerous risks that are often overlooked and undervalued, posing significant threats to human rights. In this blog, we explore three such risks and urge companies to broaden their approach to risk identification.
Impact of technology on human rights
Technology is advancing at a rapid pace, bringing with it numerous benefits. However, it also poses significant risks to human rights, including discrimination and bias. Facial recognition technology, for instance, has been found to have a higher error rate for people of colour and women, leading to discriminatory outcomes. Similarly, the use of AI-powered decision-making systems can lead to biased outcomes that negatively impact vulnerable communities. Moreover, the use of technology in the workplace can lead to increased monitoring and surveillance, leading to violations of privacy and autonomy.
Misuse of government authorities
Companies operating in countries where governments do not protect human rights are at risk of benefiting from government policies that violate human rights, even unintendedly. Moreover, special agreements are sometimes made to exempt businesses from laws protecting human rights. Business can influence or interfere with judicial proceedings or pursue legal action against human rights defenders that would limit debate over business practices and plans. Companies must be vigilant in their dealings with governments and ensure they do not inadvertently contribute human rights violations.
While companies may consider child labour a significant human rights risk, they often overlook other children’s rights, such as the right to family life, health and safety, and a clean environment. UNICEF, Save the Children, and UN Global Compact launched the children’s rights and business principles over ten years ago, but the risks companies take into account are still limited
In conclusion, companies must take a systematic and approach to identifying human rights risks, starting with a broad range of human rights and then prioritising based on severity and likelihood. At Human Rights@Work, we help companies to prevent overlooking and undervaluing risks that can lead to significant human rights violations.
By going beyond compliance and addressing these overlooked human rights risks, companies can promote human rights and contribute to a more sustainable future.