Companies find it difficult to Report on Human Rights Issues – bespoke solutions are needed

Company reporting on human rights issues – SustainAbility, 2006 The study examines company reporting on human rights issues. It explores the expectations of stakeholders with regard to corporate reporting on human rights, investigates trends in reporting around specific human rights issues, examines the current state of corporate reporting on human rights, and provides a framework for companies to use to review their current and future approach to reporting on human rights. In order to do so the study analysed reports from 35 companies.

Findings of the study include

  • it is difficult to set specific reporting indicators against which all companies should report; instead, stakeholders stated that human rights risks depend upon the company’s operating context at the local level and that reporting should be tailored to account for context-specific concerns and issues
  • while each company must undertake its own human rights risk assessment, stakeholders acknowledged that there are some common risks and related stakeholder expectations within industries
  • while many companies explained that their management systems for human rights have been in place for some time, most started reporting on their performance externally only in the past few years
  • the breadth of reporting on human rights has expanded beyond some of the primary issues such as diversity and workplace issues
  • the depth of reporting is moving beyond policy statements and codes of conduct to performance data and results
  • the number of industries reporting on human rights has increased
  • here is more location-specific reporting
  • the comparability across company reports is slowly increasing
  • however, there is still relatively little reporting on human rights compared to other issues commonly discussed in sustainability reports
  • the most commonly cited audience for human rights reporting information was the socially responsible investment (SRI) community, and in addition, there appears to be increasing interest from mainstream investors, particularly with regards to risk management

Based on these findings the study develops a framework to help companies increase their transparency and accountability with respect to human rights. Original article in Eldis.

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