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Study shows gap between executive care for human rights and the prominence of its policy

The majority of business executives are aware that human rights policies should be inherent, but not as many implement them

A study conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by WeiserMazars LLP and Mazars Group, looks at the views of executives, board members, and businesses in regards to the importance of companies in protecting human rights. The findings from the report, titled “The road from principle to practice: Today’s challenges for business in respecting human rights,” point to 83 percent of executives believing that human rights is a big focus for businesses, and that it should be a central theme at governmental levels, according to public releases.

While it is obviously assuring to know that the majority of business leaders believe that human rights is a top-of-mind issue, only 22 percent of respondents said that their companies have publicly available human rights policies.

Howard Dorman, WeiserMazars partner and U.S. leader of the Human Rights Initiative said, “These results demonstrate the growing importance of considering human rights as a core element of business practices. We are proud to be able to support this global movement working to ensure that human rights are respected and protected.”

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The 850 respondents to the online survey, which was conducted on a global level, conveyed — in the majority — that they believe their firms’ responsibilities include respecting human rights and extend beyond obedience to local laws. 71 percent of business leaders responded in such a way, and 44 percent stated that human rights are an issue to the extent that CEOs should take the lead on ensuring that corporate business policy and standards include human rights language.

Despite all of this care on the part of executives, there is a clear gap between that and actual policy institution as discovered by the research. Training and education are at the top of the list of barriers to companies progressing in the area of instituting company-wide human rights policies, and respondents said that making human rights due diligence a legal requirement would further bolster the progress of such policies. 

Richard Karmel, global head of Business and Human Rights, Mazars Group, said in the group’s statement: “Executives are now expecting a comprehensive framework to better implement their human rights policy. The launch of the UN Guiding Principles reporting framework is Mazars’ answer for both business and society.” 

Further findings of the research show that 48 percent of respondents see respecting human rights as a leading driver in building good relationships with local communities, 43 percent see it as protecting the company’s brand and reputation, and 41 percent see it as serving moral and/or ethical considerations. With such a study as a threshold, it will be interesting to watch companies big and small grapple with their internal beliefs about the maintenance of human rights policies and their real life institution of them. 

Contributing Author

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Juliana Kenny

Juliana Kenny is a contributor to InsideCounsel.com, covering a range of topics including patent litigation, conflict mineral laws, executive compensation, and antitrust regulation. Juliana earned B.A.s...

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