UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

In 2011, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (the ‘UN Guiding Principles’) were released to provide practical guidance on business and human rights. The UN Guiding Principles are the authoritative global standard and key reference point for businesses on the ‘how to’ of meeting the growing expectations they face when it comes to human rights.

The UN Guiding Principles build on the three pillars of the UN ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework: the State duty to protect human rights, the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and the need to ensure access to remedy for those affected by human rights abuses.

Protect State duty to protect human rightsStates have a duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business, through appropriate policies, regulation and adjudication
Respect Corporate responsibility to respect human rightsBusinesses have a responsibility to respect human rights (at its most basic level, ‘do no harm’) – that is, to:

  • avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their own activities and address such impacts when they occur; and
  • seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts. Relevant business relationships include those with joint venture partners, suppliers, customers, contractors and host governments.
Remedy Access to remedy

  • States must take appropriate steps to ensure that those affected by human rights abuses have access to effective remedy
  • Business should establish or participate in effective operational-level grievance mechanisms as well as other state and non-state grievance mechanisms

Under the UN Guiding Principles, respecting human rights (doing no harm) is the minimum standard expected of businesses. As reflected in Principle 1 of the UN Global Compact, businesses also have a significant opportunity to support human rights – that is, to take additional voluntary actions to promote and advance human rights (e.g. through social investment, advocacy and engagement in public policy, collective action and philanthropy), although this can never substitute for respecting human rights.

Key resources

UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights PDF Icon

The Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights: An Interpretive Guide PDF Icon

Business and Human Rights Resource Centre

Human Rights and Business Dilemmas Forum