Business and Human Rights the basics (2)

The Business and Human Rights field is evolving quickly.

If you are interested in the topic from an academic viewpoint, the debate about a business and human rights binding treaty will interest you. If you are more interested in the practical application of human rights in the business world, outcomes of litigation and new case studies, then the following will be more relevant to you:

The Institute for Business and Human Rights has released their list of 2015 Business and human rights priorities again, each of which offers a good entry point into the topic.

Alternatively, you can read the list of priorities here with some extra explanations. Now you obtained a quick overview of priorities in business and human rights, here is an introductory resource list for those of you who want to dig deeper into the topic:

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Eat Less. Care More. Feel Good! How?

Eat Less. Care More. Feel Good! How?

Go Meat Free for a Week! Why?

Can you believe that with an average consumption of 111.5kg per hear per annum Australia is ranked in the top three biggest meat-eating countries in the world per capita? I guess you can – Australians love their meat in all shapes and forms, be it on the BBQ, in a pie or on a Pizza! Nine out of 10 Australians don’t eat enough vegetables, yet when it comes to meat, Australians eat more than double the world average of 41.9kg per person.

This massive consumption of meat apparently compromises our health, and with global meat production predicted to double within six years in line with the growth of the middle classes, we know for a fact, it also raises serious concerns about long-term sustainability of the planet and animal welfare[Read more…]

Business and Human Rights and Corruption – An Overview

Business and Human Rights and Corruption – An Overview

DSC01109This is an introduction to the core concepts of business and human rights and why we never get anywhere in the prevention of human rights abuses if corruption persists.

Human Rights and Business – the Issues



Human rights and globalisation are arguably two of the most influential features of international relations in the 21st century. Businesses are sources of well documented human rights abuses but also have the capacity, and particularly the resources, to promote human rights.

Business is at the heart of almost every effort to improve development and people’s living standards because it is the main source of economic activity. [Read more…]

Corporate Sustainability Strategies – a feel-good gimmick or good for the planet’s bottom line?

Corporate Sustainability Strategies – a feel-good gimmick or good for the planet’s bottom line?

The failed attempt of voluntary corporate sustainability strategies to save the planet.

Corporate sustainability strategies developed in response to the resource constraints of the 21st century.  These constraints are the result of over population and over consumption and their damaging effect on the health of the earth.

Even the gentle Sir David Attenborough has joined the chorus of people arguing for fewer people in the interest of more biodiversity and a quality environment in his speech People and Planet in March 2011.

We have been trying to persuade companies to engage in voluntary corporate sustainability programmes of all kinds in order to address the obvious negative impacts of the way the ‘developed’ world does business.

Corporate sustainability strategies or planned abandonment?

However, do we ever stop to consider if it actually makes sense for a particular industry to engage in sustainability programmes or should it rather be a question of planned abandonment of this particular industry/product/ manufacturing process?

Water courtesy coca colaTake the issue of water. [Read more…]

Business and human rights: the basics (part 2): the role of national human rights institutions

Business and human rights: the basics (part 2): the role of national human rights institutions

Today, following business and human rights: the basics (part 1) which included 4 key introductory texts for anybody wishing to make sense of this rapidly evolving field and become familiar with the issues, this short overview focuses on the role of National Human Rights Institutions in business and human rights.

National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) play an important role in the business and human rights sphere and are well placed to help align business activities with international human rights standards in line with their general mandates to promote and protect human rights. Some NHRI”s already address many business related human rights issues through:

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Business & human rights: the basics (part 1)

For the past decade or so I have been keeping abreast of  developments in business and human rights in Australia and abroad and have just updated an introductory reading list for a forthcoming workshop.  I would like to share the key documents with those of you who need to get across the topic quickly without compromising quality.

Whether you are a law student, a sustainability or corporate responsibility professional or simply an interested individual – if you want to save time sifting through the vast amount of material and wish to get to the substance immediately – look no further. The list of articles below is organised in priority order:

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Rio + 20

by Terence Jeyaretnam, Director of Net Balance (, one of the world’s leading sustainability advisory firms. Terence is based in Melbourne.

A businessman would not consider a firm to have solved its problems of production and to have achieved viability if he saw that it was rapidly consuming its capital. How, then, could we overlook this vital fact when it comes to that very big firm, the economy of Spaceship Earth and, in particular, the economies of its rich passengers? E F Schumacher, Small is Beautiful, 1973

Erosion of natural capital has continued over the past 50 years, despite the heightened awareness of environmental impact of industrialization and population growth. Over the fifty years, there’s been a multitude of international conventions, giving birth to a large number of new institutions and protocols on sustainable development. They have proved just one thing – that there’s no silver bullet for the environmental predicament. [Read more…]

social investment implications of 7 billion people

social investment implications of 7 billion people

Dusseldorf Mediahafen

At the end of  October 2011 it is estimated that the world population will have reached 7 billion people – an achievement and challenge at the same time.

This article focusses on just three challenges and corresponding opportunities that might stretch the traditional mindset for social investments by corporates, trusts and foundation and governments. All three are interdependent and addressing one can have postive impacts on the other.

1: Addressing [Read more…]

Investing as if the Future Matters

Investing as if the Future Matters

harmonizing giving and investing as a necessary step for Foundations to meeting the ‘public benefit’ test

by Stephen Viederman

I listened and lectured in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in October 2005 and I admit I became an Australiaphile. While there I was struck by many similarities and differences between our philanthropies. One similarity of special interest to me was the limited interest in and even lesser practice of using assets as a way of adding value to giving as an instrument of change.

Each year the effort to “invest as if the future mattered” becomes easier as new and more sophisticated investment vehicles in all asset classes enter the market. In addition, the concept of ownership and stewardship has grown urging shareowners to engage with the companies they own by voting proxies and in other ways.

The public benefit is how the Charity’s Commission of England and Wales describes the charitable purpose of foundations. This is as clear and concise a definition as I have seen.

Unfortunately, however, this only seems to apply to giving, not to the use of the assets that make the giving possible. In Australia, I suspect, as is the case here in the US, the chasm between mission and giving, on the one hand, and investment, on the other, is still more the rule than the exception. I firmly believe that harmonizing giving and investing is a necessary step toward meeting the ‘public benefit’ purpose. [Read more…]

business and human rights & CSR

There are few if any internationally recognised rights that businesses cannot impact.

Why should business care about human rights?

There are few if any internationally recognised rights business cannot impact – or be perceived to impact – in some manner.  Therefore, companies should consider all such rights.” Professor John Ruggie, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Business and Human Rights. Protect, Respect and Remedy: a Framework for Business and Human Rights, April 2008.

So now that’s clear, what are we doing about it? And how do much covetted corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives fit into the business and human rights agenda? [Read more…]