We recently opened up our April GBI members meeting by describing the three-day agenda as following the “arc of implementation” – leading us through the steps of corporate human rights due diligence. This is fundamental and important work. But we know that corporate human rights journeys are rarely linear and we know that respect for human rights requires more than just the right systems.
Throughout our discussions, we kept returning to the concept of trust as a crucial cross-cutting enabling factor in a company’s ability to meet its human rights responsibilities. Without trust underpinning these activities, it will be significantly harder to build a corporate environment conducive to respect for human rights.
This requires the trust of internal and external stakeholders in a company’s human rights commitments – that a company will do what it says it will do. Participants’ trust in the content of human rights training and capacity-building (and in who is delivering that training). In a modern slavery or sexual harassment situation, victims’ trust that if they come forward, they need not fear repercussions or retaliation. Users’ trust in a company’s grievance mechanisms – that complaints will be investigated, mitigated and remedied. And for suppliers, business partners and host countries - trust that companies won’t walk away from doing business with them for being transparent and acknowledging they’re working to improve their human rights performance.
The arc of implementation certainly provides a framework for how business should implement respect for human rights. Beyond the need for more or optimised processes, our conversations returned again and again to the need to establish and maintain trust as a crucial ingredient in ensuring progress. And trust cannot simply be a matter of belief but must be grounded in the lived reality of a company’s behaviours and performance with regards to human rights.
The ingredient was much in evidence between members at the meeting, who went back to the office with new ideas and insights on how to strengthen policies, processes and – we trust – performance.
About GBI members meetings
GBI members participate in member meetings and peer learning sessions to accelerate their human rights journeys through frank and open business-to-business exchange on progress and challenges, which take place in a confidential, safe-space setting. We focus on sharing in detail member-developed tools and resources, as well as practical experiences and insights.
In April 2018, in addition to the main peer learning discussions (see here), GBI member representatives participated in several activities with leading experts in different fields. These included:
- A dialogue on the state of play of corporate implementation of human rights due diligence with Anita Ramasastry, of the UN Working Group on Human Rights;
- Informal networking and 1-to-1 discussions with peers and GBI’s expert advisors;
- A special session on the evolving legal and regulatory landscape, which was hosted by Peter Herbel (formerly General Counsel of Total) and Elodie Herbel, both Herbel Avocats; and
- A dinner with guest speaker Andrew Gowers, (former editor of the FT and outgoing Global Head of Corporate Affairs at Trafigura).
Access a summary of the agenda for GBI’s April 2018 member meeting here.