How to report on human rights, effective and efficient? This was the topic of the second multi-stakeholder roundtable facilitated by ICCO, VBDO, CNV Internationaal and PwC on 12 October in The Hague. The coalition, called HUMAN, is focused on supporting Dutch corporate and financial sector in translating the aspirations of the UNGPs in solid business practices, starting with due diligence and reporting processes. More than 25 investors, Netherlands-based multinational companies, SMEs, research institutions, civil society and governmental institutions were present to learn and exchange views and best practices.
Reporting on human rights is here to stay
Anna Bulzoni, Senior Associate at PwC opened the round table by stating that reporting and disclosure on human rights are here to stay. “More reporting does not automatically means better. It is important that companies show what it is about.” She also elaborated on the difference between ‘salient’ human rights issues as mentioned in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), where risks to people’s human rights are greatest, using the lens of risk to people as starting point versus materiality where risk to business is the reference point.
A panel of experts discussed stakeholder views on human rights reporting
A panel of experts shared their experiences: Moyee Coffee’s Mark Kauw gave an insight in the human rights reporting possibilities and challenges of a Small Medium Enterprise (SME). Jan Willem Vosmeer shared his challenges in working on human rights for Heineken. Danielle Essink from Robeco and Peter Webster from Vigeo Eiris provided insights in investors needs and rating agencies. And the Dutch Human Rights Ambassador, Kees van Baar, shared his expertise and vision on the role of the government in human rights reporting. “It becomes more and more important to also report on human rights and to show where you stand, otherwise companies could lose their businesses”, Van Baar said.
Practical workshop on reporting by Shift
Shift, the leading centre of expertise on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, concluded the afternoon with a practical workshop on their reporting framework. Mairead Keigher, Reporting Program Manager of Shift stimulates companies to report on the issues that have the most severe impacts on people through the companies’ operations. “It is a principled, risk-based method you can explain and this approach removes the blind spots often found in approaches that start from the lens of the risks to business.”
Participants were very engaged in the discussion and eager to learn from each other. As for many companies it is still new to report about how they address human rights in their business operations. It is important to tell an authentic story, to keep the information concise and to the point. Human rights links to everything, it is not an isolated topic which makes it a challenge to keep the balance.
“We look back on a very fruitful round table. Companies are looking for more guidance and exchange of best practices. These round tables offer a platform for this exchange and informal contacts”, says Femmy Bakker, advisor on Responsible Business at ICCO and co-organiser of the event. “We see still much need in organizing such events and ICCO will continue to facilitate these platforms on human rights in the future. For us it is important that companies and investors make progress on implementing the UNGPs and with that to improve people’s situation in practice.”
In 2017 the HUMAN Coalition organized two roundtables on pressing human rights topics. In June a round table was organized on Due Diligence. Next year, HUMAN will organise more Roundtables. The topics are to be defined in the coming weeks.