Almost all human rights are relevant to business. A business can have an impacts – both positive and negative – on many people, including employees, customers, suppliers and their employees, and communities in which the business operates.
Globally, there is increasing expectation amongst governments, business, investors and civil society, that businesses operate responsibly and sustainably – and at the heart of this is respect for human rights.
In 2011 the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) were unanimously endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council. The UNGPs are now the authoritative global standard for addressing and preventing human rights impacts associated with business activity. The UN Guiding Principles operate on a three-pillar framework, known as the Protect, Respect, Remedy Framework, which consists of:
- Pillar I: The State duty to protect human rights
- Pillar II: The business responsibility to respect human rights
- Pillar III: Access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights harm.
Australia has agreed to implement the UNGPs. The UNGPs are increasingly implemented into law, policy and practice around the world. In Australia a key example is the annual modern slavery reporting requirement for large entities introduced under the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth).
Read more about the UNGPs
National human rights institutions, like the Australian Human Rights Commission, have an important role to play in progressing the business and human rights agenda. The Commission works with business, government and civil society stakeholders to promote the implementation of the UNGPs, and other relevant frameworks such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the Sustainable Development Goals, in Australia.
This work is led by Commission President, Rosalind Croucher, and includes:
- providing policy advice and research on business and human rights issues
- supporting effective implementation of modern slavery legislation in Australia by business and government
- international and regional engagement on advancing business and human rights issues.
The Commission is uniquely placed to facilitate the multi-stakeholder dialogue and problem solving between business, government and civil society, envisioned by the UNGPs, and to elevate less powerful voices within such processes.
Complaints about discrimination in the workplace
People who experience direct or indirect discrimination can lodge a complaint with the Commission.
 UNGPs, Guiding Principle 3, Commentary. See also the comments of the Human Rights Council, Human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, 15 June 2011 A/HRC/17/L.17/Rev.1