Corporate social responsibility (CSR), as an increasing business practice, is understood to be a sense of obligation or responsibility from corporations not just on the economic aspect of business goals, but also to the social and environmental approaches. So, corporate social responsibility fulfills the “triple bottom line” of a business activity which consists of the economic, social, and environmental aspects.
Since CSR deals with people in the society as well as individuals within the organization, human rights play an important role in the many CSR activities.
The Relevance of Human Rights to CSR
Human rights have a significant relevance in the “triple bottom line” of business activity. For instance, labor unions that push for an increase in the wage affect the economic aspect. Upholding the respect for diversity among the employees addresses the social aspect of corporate activity. As for the environmental aspect of the business, the right to a clean workplace can be an example.
For the most part, the national government in a certain country imposes human rights standards to most companies and businesses but some corporations also play a significant role in the conception and implementation of these human rights.
Organizations have an important function in carrying out these human rights especially now that many companies practice social responsibility. So, what used to be the primary responsibility of the government is now backed up by companies as to upholding human rights as these firms are becoming more and more involved in the community and the society.
Considering the fact that businesses operate and participate in the society they are in, these corporations have eventually come to realize that as part of the bigger community where they operate and being good citizens, they have to show respect to the human rights of the public who they transact business with, in some way. These individuals or groups may either be directly or indirectly in contact with them.
Employees and consumers are examples of those who have direct contact with companies. The workers of the suppliers and those residing within the vicinity where companies operate can be examples of indirect contact.
Companies also understand that the buying public and even the people in the community where they operate expect them to conduct in a socially acceptable way.
The UN Proposal on CSR for Human Rights
Since corporate social responsibility has been an issue for many decades now ever since it was coined, the United Nations addressed this issue and gave attention to the scope of businesses in the practice of social responsibility that concerns human rights.
The UN proposes that companies must uphold the “responsibility to respect human rights,” that the government has the right to protect individuals from human rights abuses and violations by organizations, and that both the government and the companies must grant convenient solutions to human rights abuses.
These proposals would oblige the companies to recompense for the shortcomings in the economic, social, political, environmental, and other aspects in the countries where their business operates.
UN Expectations from Corporations on Human Rights
In accordance with the proposal of the United Nations Human Right Council, companies need to comply with the national laws on social responsibility to respect human rights through a due diligence process.
Firstly, corporations are required to establish a human rights policy or standards and incorporate these policies as an essential element in management decisions with any company activities and programs.
Next, companies must perform a human rights assessment for them to realize and understand the effect of company activities on human rights. And lastly, companies are expected to monitor their performance based on the assessments and respond appropriately to it.
The human rights impact assessment consists of several elements. It must have a description of the proposed business program, a catalogue of the legal and administrative structure of the activity and the outline of the international human rights applicable to the society where the business operates.
Apart from the frameworks, it must also contain a description of the human rights conditions within the society, a statement of possible modifications or changes due to the business activity, a precedence of human rights challenges for the organization, and a management plan reflecting the proposals for any challenges on the human rights policy and the stipulation of these recommendations.