Private Sector

How can the human rights community better engage corporations as human rights actors?

In the last decade, there has been increasing discussion on how human rights organizations need to move away from traditional grant models and think more like businesses, or at least to engage with corporations as partners and allies. After all, corporations play an inevitable role in human rights, whether activists want them to or not—could we change this role into something positive? How can the human rights community better engage with corporations as allies, while also holding companies to account when they violate rights? What is the role of corporations in creating ethical standards in artificial intelligence, or in fighting against climate change and the rights violations that come with it? And can activists help nudge corporations in the right direction, or does that change need to come from within? Consumers also have a role to play, as more and more people are voting with their wallets and demanding ethical investing options and sustainable business practices. But how effective are these changes in the long run?

The pieces in this series explore these themes and aim to challenge our thinking when it comes to the relationship between corporations and human rights. While the two are often antagonists, many of these articles show that they do not have to be—we just have to find common ground to forge a new way forward.

 

Can corporations play a role in changing harmful social norms?

By: Cynthia Trigo Paz
Español | Français

A “gender-neutral” approach to human rights due diligence is insufficient, and corporations should take ...

Waorani women resist Ecuador’s extractive agenda in the Amazon

By: Vanessa Daza Castillo
Español | Português

Indigenous women in Ecuador are standing up to an extractive industry that has displaced vulnerable ...

Seeing business and human rights as a web of corporate accountability

By: Joanne Bauer
Español

A “web of corporate accountability” illustrates the multiple ways in which actors can hold corporations ...

Facebook’s new recipe: too much optimism, not enough human rights

By: Stefania Di Stefano
Español | Français | Italiano

Because social media platforms dominate public forums worldwide, a governance system rooted in “social ...

When technology facilitates ICE raids that violate rights, who is responsible?

By: Jacinta Gonzalez
Español | Deutsch

Palantir has argued that its technology does not play an active role in deportations and the human rights ...

What can national action plans on business and human rights do for women’s rights?

By: Nora Götzmann & Wangui Kimotho
Français | Español

National action plan processes can—and must—do more to contribute to the realisation of women’s rights.

For new narratives, human rights needs new forms of economic power

By: Alejandro Bautista
Español | Français

If compelling human rights narratives are not grounded in sustainable, replicable and scalable projects, ...

The US can play a role in tackling global corporate abuse

By: Phil Bloomer & Alison Friedmann
Español

The recent declaration of the US Business Roundtable on the purpose of a corporation is a seismic shift ...

Social media complicates mainstream media goals of pluralism and diversity

By: Maria Luisa Stasi & Pierre François Docquir
Español

Freedom of expression demands and facilitates the development of pluralistic media landscapes. But as ...

How a UN Committee Contributed to End a Controversial Mining Project in French Guiana

By: Alexandre Sommer-Schaechtele
Français

The indigenous peoples of French Guiana used an urgent procedure of the UN’s Committee on the Elimination ...

WhatsApp sues NSO Group: is this what it takes to hold surveillance tech to account?

By: Ana Zbona & Phil Bloomer

A lawsuit exposing the use of surveillance software to target human rights defenders shows the urgent ...

Turkey’s fast fashion is rising on the backs of Syrian refugees

By: Salma Houerbi
Español | العربية

Weak labour legislation in Turkey, paired with brands that put profits before people, is causing harmful ...

Why do emerging AI guidelines emphasize “ethics” over human rights?

By: Alison Berthet
Français

It’s clear that regulation of AI must start now, but why do emerging frameworks primarily talk about ...

Competition rules could protect human rights on social media platforms

By: Maria Luisa Stasi
Español

Social media platforms are abusing their dominant position and exploiting users with terms of service ...

New strategies help investors hold corporations accountable on human rights

By: Gabe Rissman
Español

A sustainable business model could help human rights groups apply shareholder pressure to improve corporate ...

Rising restrictions on labour rights threaten the heart of social justice

By: Ana Zbona & Sanyu Awori
Español | Français

When space closes for labour rights defenders, the situation is far worse for those at the margins. ...

Hybrid entities can bring for-profit strategies to NGO funding

By: Louis Bickford
Español

Hybrid entities that mix for-profit and not-for-profit strategies have the potential to free NGOs from ...

Blockchain technologies offer transparency that could improve human rights practices

By: Dean Pinkert & James Ton-that & Ravi Soopramanien
Español | Français

Blockchain solutions could help companies comply with human rights due diligence in more effective and ...

The right to design babies? Human rights and bioethics

By: Roberto Andorno & Alicia Ely Yamin
Español

New developments in gene modifications make it more urgent than ever to raise societal awareness, and ...

New business and human rights treaty takes shape

By: Maysa Zorob
Español

The draft of a new business and human rights treaty is a good start, but needs to be strengthened to ...

Tech companies’ inability to control fake news exacerbates violent acts

By: Jennifer Easterday & Hana Ivanhoe

In the absence of sufficient monitoring and ameliorative action on the part of the tech companies, fake ...

Communications infrastructure in Palestine has become a tool of repression

By: Who Profits Research Center
العربية | Français

Restrictions on Palestinian mobile companies mean that Israeli companies reap profits from Palestinian ...

Public consultations push back against multinationals in Colombia

By: Antonio Sanchez Gomez
Español

In Colombia, public consultations have successfully halted exploitative mining projects. But can these ...

The corporations’ dilemma: navigating government access to information

By: Isabel Laura Ebert
Français | Deutsch

Technology can help to prevent conflict, but it can also facilitate human rights abuses, and companies ...

New human rights principles on artificial intelligence

By: Sherif Elsayed-Ali
Español | Français

A new set of principles—the Toronto Declaration—aims to put human rights front and centre in the development ...

Artificial Intelligence can be a boon for businesses, but can it protect workers?

By: Emre Eren Korkmaz
Türkçe | Español | Français

Artificial intelligence is rapidly transforming business models, but labor rights and other human rights ...

As artificial intelligence progresses, what does real responsibility look like?

By: Dunstan Allison-Hope & Mark Hodge
Español | Français | 日本語

Artificial intelligence is disrupting how we live, work, do business, and govern—but what mechanisms ...

Being flexible while staying true: the balance of engaging corporations in human rights

By: Rajshri Sen
Español

Getting traction and funding for women’s rights in India can be difficult, but partnering with innovative ...

Making progress in human rights requires big risks and new allies

By: Maria Bobenrieth
Français | Español

In these turbulent times, business as usual is no longer an option for women’s rights organizations, ...

How not to produce energy: lessons from Brazil’s Belo Monte dam

By: Astrid Puentes Riaño
Español | Português

Due to lack of community consultation and negative socio-environmental impacts, the Belo Monte dam in ...

Putting human rights at the centre of the renewable energy sector

By: Eniko Horvath & Christen Dobson
Español | 简体中文

In our efforts to quickly mitigate the negative impacts of climate change, advocates have a critical ...

The world is watching—corporate action on Trump travel ban

By: Salil Tripathi

Many corporations have already taken a stand against Trump’s travel ban, and corporate leaders advising ...

State-owned enterprises in China could be an entry point for human rights

By: Qian Cheng
简体中文

To make headway on human rights in China, advocates need to get creative by partnering with state-owned ...

Inequality, business and human rights: the new frontier?

By: Uwe Gneiting 

Despite the growing urgency to address inequality, the business and human rights field has remained ...

The Trans-Pacific Partnership: a missed opportunity for civil society?

By: Mark Aspinwall
Español

Civil society could have played a key role in the Trans-Pacific Partnership—why were they left out?

Business lessons for human rights: borrowing evidence-based practices

By: Bill Mawby & Theresa Harris

The human rights field could learn a lot from evidence-based practices developed in business and medicine.

Digging deeper: the impact of coal on human rights

By: Krizna Gomez & Gregory Tzeutschler Regaignon

With governments making commitments at the Paris Conference of Parties (COP21), global leaders must ...

Corporate concern for human rights essential to tackle climate change

By: Asuncion Lera St. Clair

We have the means to create a green and equitable economy, but first corporations must embrace sustainable ...