Shift, in collaboration with WBCSD, has launched a first-of-its-kind compendium of 15 real-life case studies that illustrate what various individual companies and collaborative initiatives are doing to put business respect for human rights into practice and how those efforts go beyond “doing no harm” to show great promise in making powerful and positive contributions to the SDGs.
Ever since they were endorsed in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals have been an increasingly hot topic for countless companies around the world. Each day, business is examining how it can best contribute to the ambitious goals and targets set out by Agenda 2030. Not all, however, are doing it right. Many are making the mistake of cherry-picking SDGs based on ease and marketability, rather than impact.
This needs to change.
Companies need to recognize that respecting human rights is one of the most significant ways in which all businesses can support the SDGs. A rights-based approach sets the groundwork for companies to boost their SDGs impacts exponentially, and it is key for any business that is serious about contributing to the Global Goals.
The good news is, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights explicitly set out what international expectations are when it comes to how the private sector must assess and address risks to and impacts on people associated with business operations and value chains, regardless of a company’s size, sector, or location.
The question, then, is how can business best integrate respect for human rights into its SDG strategies and activities?
First, all companies must ask themselves: what are the most severe (i.e. salient) risks to people and planet associated with our business? How do those risks map to the SDGs? And how can we lead and collaborate to tackle negative impacts in ways that maximize positive outcomes for people and our planet? These questions should drive any corporate strategy on the Global Goals and continuously inform implementation of that strategy.
And, for those companies who are capitalizing on the promising business opportunities presented by the SDGs, additional questions should include: How can we apply our business capabilities to develop and deliver new products or services that contribute to the SDGs, while at the same time minimizing negative impacts on people and planet?
To help companies understand the power of this approach in practice, Shift, in collaboration with WBCSD, has launched The Human Rights Opportunity, a first-of-its-kind compendium of 15 real-life case studies that illustrate what various individual companies and collaborative initiatives are doing to put business respect for human rights into practice and how those efforts go beyond “doing no harm” to show great promise in making powerful and positive contributions to the SDGs.
Showcasing efforts related to living wages, forced labor, gender equality, and land rights, the compendium spans a wide range of sectors and geographies, outlines both buyer and supplier experiences, and shares first-hand perspectives of the participating companies as well as of third-party actors involved in the various initiatives. Some examples include:
None of the case studies would claim to be perfect, but all demonstrate significant steps in the right direction. We invite all those working within and with companies to use these innovative examples as inspiration in developing and carrying out SDG strategies that are both practical and principled, and that put people back at the center of sustainable development. Please visit www.shiftproject.org/SDGs to learn more.
Shift is the leading center of expertise on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Shift’s global team facilitates dialogue, builds capacity and develops new approaches with companies, government, civil society organizations and international institutions to bring about a world in which business gets done with respect for people’s fundamental welfare and dignity. Shift is a non-profit, mission-driven organization.
Shift was established following the 2011 unanimous endorsement of the Guiding Principles by the UN Human Rights Council, which marked the successful conclusion of the mandate of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Business and Human Rights, Professor John Ruggie. Shift’s founders were part of Professor Ruggie’s core advisory team that helped develop the Guiding Principles. Professor Ruggie is the Chair of Shift’s Board of Trustees.
Follow Shift at @shiftproject