The business and human rights agenda has evolved significantly in recent years, and there is now global recognition that business can be a vehicle for the promotion and realisation of human rights. Much of this work has been led by Harvard Professor John Ruggie, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on business and human rights (SRSG) from 2005-2011.
In 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council welcomed the Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework for Business and Human Rights developed by the SRSG. This framework provided an authoritative statement on the relationship between business and human rights, recognising that while governments have the primary duty to protect and promote human rights, businesses have a distinct responsibility to respect human rights, essentially a “do no harm” standard. It also recognised the importance of access to effective judicial and non-judicial remedy when things go wrong.
In June 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), to operationalise the Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework. These principles provide a global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse human impacts linked to business activity.
Businesses can also play a key role in advancing human rights within their organisations and the wider community. For example, businesses that seek to accelerate gender equality through setting targets or adopting special measures, or promote human rights within the community through education and awareness raising activities.
The Commission has developed factsheets to assist Australians businesses integrate a human rights approach into their policies and practices, and is working with partners to facilitate dialogue on business and human rights issues.