Human rights linked to business
Rapid economic growth is good for job creation, infrastructure development, and poverty reduction, but it can also create challenges for human rights promotion, protection, and implementation.
Australian Ambassador Robyn Mudie
In fact, most human rights are intertwined with the commercial world. Customers, suppliers, employees, and the business community can all be affected by business activity in both positive and negative ways. Many firms are concerned that enforcing human rights obligations will raise expenses and harm profitability. However, if businesses fail to meet their human rights obligations, resulting in violations, earnings will suffer and business risks will rise, particularly in the event of a work-related accident, lawsuit, or strike. "We know that business and human rights are mutually beneficial, embracing responsible business conduct and protection of human rights benefit businesses regardless of their size, operational context, ownership and structure,” said Australian Ambassador to Vietnam, Robyn Mudie.
When it comes to human rights breaches involving economic activity, most people think of factories where child labor is rampant and working conditions are hazardous. Obviously, businesses must pay attention to their supply chains, but they can also have a subtle impact on human rights at home and abroad.
Companies that operate on online platforms must respect people's privacy and adhere to data protection rules, while employers must not discriminate against any workers on the basis of their sex or pregnancy status, and all businesses must offer safe working conditions for their staff.
The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) call on all enterprises to publicly commit to protecting human rights, assess their own business operations and activities to understand their areas of risk to human rights (known as ‘human rights due diligence), and take corrective action when things go wrong. This includes identifying appropriate risk mitigation strategies, monitoring the success of initiatives, and reporting publicly on progress in implementation.
The UK government has released a National Action Plan to implement the UNGPs, outlining expectations for UK enterprises to respect human rights wherever they operate.
Human rights and sustainable development
Responsible business practices are essential to minimize the danger of human rights breaches. Respect for human rights is at the foundation of business conduct and ethics.
That is why, the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) and the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), with support from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), have collaborated on a two-year program to strengthen business capacity and train future business leaders in the areas of responsible business conduct and human rights in Vietnam.
Specifically, VCCI and AHRC have collaborated on a Corporate Sustainability Index (CSI) Report, as well as in the analysis and identification of a number of specific indicators relating to responsible business and human rights.
At the launch of the Corporate Sustainability Index 2022, Australian Ambassador Robyn Mudie stated “What is different in this year’s CSI is a new human rights indicator which assesses whether businesses have a public human rights policy that commits the business to respecting human rights in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Ranking higher in this indicator raises a business’ reputation and builds trust from partners, investors and stakeholders”.
Mr. Nguyen Quang Vinh, Vice President of the VCCI as well as Chairman of Vietnam Business Council for Sustainable Development (VBCSD) said that the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated responsible business conduct and respect for human rights may help firms be resilient to crises and recover quickly.
Businesses' economic and cultural values are achieved by incorporating human rights into their business plan. If the business does not focus on this issue, large costs may be incurred to mitigate the danger of, or worse, to remediate the harm caused by human rights abuses.