New guide helps directors to set the tone on human rights

Published: 13 May 2016

Business leaders should be seizing opportunities to secure their futures and safeguard their brand by adopting progressive human rights policies.

The call comes as the Equality and Human Rights Commission launches a simple five-step guide to help UK board directors show leadership in ensuring their businesses fulfil their responsibility to respect human rights.

Reputational harm, operational delays and an inability to recruit the top talent are just some of the risks to businesses failing to respect people’s human rights. 

Whereas companies that operate with a culture of respect for human rights become businesses that people want to invest in and work for as well.  And they will see their brand value increase.

Business and human rights: A five step guide for company boards will help directors create the right culture and understand what they need to do to know and show their company respects human rights in practice.

In producing the guide the Commission drew upon the experience of an Expert Advisory Group, made up of business leaders and corporate governance experts.

The guide has been written in partnership with Shift and it follows the publication of the government’s updated National Action Plan for implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights yesterday.

Mike Ashley, Chair of Audit Committee at Barclays PLC and member of our Expert Advisory Group, said:

'If corporates are to thrive they must recognise their vital role in improving the human condition of which human rights are a fundamental component. This short guide is essential reading in thinking how they should go about it and reporting on the outcomes.'

Caroline Waters, Deputy Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

'Human rights make business sense. Companies that make human rights a cornerstone of their operations thrive – with their reputation enhanced. This short guide will empower boards to ask the right questions of their executive teams, and to champion human rights from the top-down. Rather than treating human rights as an issue of compliance, boards can ensure that UK businesses lead the world in integrating human rights with business.'

Professor John Ruggie, Chair of Shift and the author of the UN Guiding Principles on Business Rights and Human Rights, said:

'Five years after the adoption of the global standard on human rights — the UN Guiding Principles — it is increasingly evident that the strongest, most sustainable companies demonstrate a tone from the top that states clearly, human rights are a core matter for this company. I am very pleased to see this guidance being issued for UK Boards and urge company leaders in all countries to act upon its concise, need-to-know guidance.'


Notes to editors

  • The Equality and Human Rights Commission is Great Britain’s national equality body and has been awarded an ‘A’ status as a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) by the United Nations.
  • The Commission has also produced a short animation that gives an overview on how business impact on human rights. Please feel free to feature this animation in any of your communications.
  • Shift are the leading centre of expertise on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Founded in 2011, Shift works globally with businesses, governments, civil society and international organisations to embed the Guiding Principles into practice.

Press contact details

For more press information contact the Commission's media office on:

0161 829 8102