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Letting Business Speak For Itself: A Database On Human Rights

Posted on March 31, 2016 at 1:00 PM

Who would have thought it ? There is real momentum around ensuring the respect of human rights by publicly listed businesses.

We are getting one 'world first' after another - not only was the world's first ranking on human rights launched recently - covered on Forbes - but there's a database too, with substantial investor support.

It is unlikely that any plc would like to be seen as in violation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Now a database launched last week gathers together for the first time companies' own reporting on how exactly how they are implementing these principles.

The UN Guiding Principles (UNGP) Reporting Database, developed by Shift, (@shiftproject)  shows how companies' current disclosure responds to key questions about their performance posed in the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework. This framework, launched in 2015 by Shift and Mazars, is also the world's first comprehensive guidance for companies to report on how they respect human rights.


"When companies pay attention to the quality of their human rights reporting, this typically leads them to focus more attention on their performance as well, motivating improvements over time. That is the ultimate objective of the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Database," said Caroline Rees, President of Shift.

This is not a ranking. There is no judgement involved regarding performance. The database draws only from information companies publish in their own websites and reports, "in order to support integrated approaches to how companies think and talk about human rights in their core business" says Shift.

But the database's catalogue of corporate disclosure can be used widely to support analysis, ranking or benchmarking of corporate reporting on human rights by other initiatives.

Christine Chow, Hermes EOS

"The UNGP Reporting Database helps investors assess the material impact of human rights on companies' performance. This helps us as investors to examine the extent to which current company reporting meets our expectations for meaningful disclosure around human rights risks, as clarified by the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework. Shift has created an agile tool where investors are able to download the disclosed data for customised analysis, facilitating ESG integration in investment decision-making said Professor Christine Chow, Associate Director and Team Lead on human and labour rights, Hermes EOS of Hermes Investment Management.

"We are excited by the opportunity this database presents in our engagements with companies," she added.

And here's the "POW! "  factor:


The UNGP Reporting Framework is supported by an investor coalition of over 80 investors representing over $4.8 trillion assets under management.

The Reporting Database currently includes 30 companies from the FT500 2015 in the apparel and general retailing, extractives, and food and beverage industries. Over the coming months, Shift will increase the number of companies and the range of industries covered in the database, and will update companies’ disclosure in the database as they publish new reporting.

The database is supported by Hermes Investment Management and includes research contributions from the International Clinic for the Defense of Human Rights (CIDDHU) at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM), and  (the seemingly aptly named) Walden Asset Management.

Categories: Human Rights, Transparency, Investors