Business and Human Rights

Case studies  

Over 12,000 companies across 170 countries have signed the UN Global Compact and committed to its 10 principles, including 6 that address human rights and labour standards. 

In New Zealand there are some great examples of companies that have taken action in some, if not all, areas relevant to human rights, including: 

  • BNZ
  • Sovereign
  • Westpac
  • Genesis Energy
  • NZ Defence
  • NZ Police
  • Coca-Cola Amatil

What's really important is to demonstrate performance. There are a number of New Zealand businesses publishing sustainability reports that take a more holistic view on performance to include society and environment, including: 

  • The Warehouse
  • New Zealand Post
  • Ricoh
  • Z Energy
  • KiwiRail
  • Watercare Services

Many businesses have also shown leadership on gender equality by committing to the Women's Empowerment Principles

Unilever leads the way

In 2015 Unilever published the first Human Rights Report by a business. Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever wrote:

“I approach this report with a mixture of conviction and humility. Conviction, because the need to act cannot be in doubt. Business can only flourish in societies in which human rights are respected, upheld and advanced. And yet, as incidents such as the tragedy at Rana Plaza in 2013 remind us, basic human rights for many of those employed in corporate value chains across the world cannot be taken for granted.

“Safe working conditions, freedom of association, fair wages, protection form forced labour, and freedom from harassment and discrimination: these must become universal operating conditions.

“Today they are not.

“And humility, because the challenges we face as business community are enormous. Let me be clear, we are fully committed to driving a sustainable business that is both commercially successful and socially and environmentally responsible but we are cognisant of the barriers. Today, the risk of systemic human rights abuses exists across our value chain and the value chains of other global businesses. This is a reality we must confront and work together to resolve.”

What does this mean for Unilever’s supply chain? Unilever has 76,000 suppliers. All of them are expected to comply with Unilever’s Responsible Sourcing Policy, which sets out expectations regarding human rights, including labour rights, of the workers in the extended supply chain. Suppliers must agree to ensure transparency, remedy any shortcomings, and drive continuous improvement. The Responsible Sourcing Policy also has clear requirements and guidance on dealing with grievances.