On Wednesday 28th of November, 4IP Group Research Associates Torkil Hvam Sørensen and Patrick FitzGerald attended the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights 2018 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. It is the world’s largest annual gathering on business and human rights with more than 2,000 participants from various stakeholder groups including governments, businesses, civil society, and investor organisations. The Forum serves as a global platform for stakeholders to discuss trends and challenges in the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
The two 4IP Group delegates attended sessions where it was discussed how investors can drive more and better human rights due diligence, how business practices and their outcomes for people can be measured and what the current issues are in human rights reporting by businesses. Some key issues raised were that there is a lack of data and transparency by businesses on the topic of human rights as well as a lack of guidance to assess the materiality of human rights issues. Despite continuous improvements in human rights reporting these last years, there remains a lot of work to be done as it was noted that many businesses have already made commitments but are yet to measure outcomes and that they mostly focus on reporting positive impacts without commenting on the adverse impacts that they may have. It was recognized that investors can make a difference and that they are the main driver for better reporting, but it seems that investors are more willing to divest than to engage which may prevent them from having interesting discussions with businesses.
By attending the Forum, 4IP Group has gathered an overview of the current practices and challenges in human rights due diligence. 4IP Group has gotten insights on pioneering initiatives in this field that are being led by organisations such as Shift and the Investor Alliance for Human Rights which provide guidance to investors on their responsibilities regarding human rights issues. This will allow 4IP Group to better advise investors on how to carry out human rights due diligence according to best practice.