New scheme will examine the human rights performance of businesses

Ministers have pledged to support an innovative new scheme, which will assess the human rights record of some of the world’s biggest companies.

The Corporate Human Rights Benchmark will initially assess 500 firms from four key sectors – agriculture, ICT, apparel and extractives.

And now the initiative, being led by Aviva Investors, has received backing from the UK Government.

Business Minister Jo Swinson this week confirmed that £80,000 would be made available in start-up funding and urged other countries to get behind the project.

“Companies’ human rights records are under increasing scrutiny. What they are doing to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our global society has a significant impact on their reputation,” said the Liberal Democrat MP.

“We want to create a ‘race to the top’ where companies that are taking effective action get recognition and those that are not can be held to account.”

Having been briefed about the scheme at the recent United Nations’ Forum on Business and Human Rights, Ms Swinson said it would make it easier for investors and regulators to challenge those companies whose performance wasn’t up to standard.

Steve Waygood, who chairs the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark, said: “It took more than 60 years from the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights before the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were developed.

“We believe that within six years of their approval, we can help to make these Guiding Principles routine corporate practice through the development and use of the Benchmark.”

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