The Business of Human Rights : Best Practice and the UN Guiding Principles book cover
1st Edition

The Business of Human Rights
Best Practice and the UN Guiding Principles

ISBN 9781783537150
Published April 16, 2019 by Routledge
178 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The spotlight of global scrutiny has shone particularly brightly on corporations’ adverse impacts on human rights in recent years. Corporations make up more than two-thirds of the world’s top economies today, and so rightly they are being called to account for their impacts on society and the communities in which they operate. The Business of Human Rights demystifies the relevance of human rights for business, explaining how the corporate responsibility to respect human rights under the UN Guiding Principles can be implemented in practice. It provides a straightforward, practical guide that can be easily read and interpreted by managers to help businesses navigate this complex area of legislation and "soft" law to fulfil their responsibilities. It explains the potential legal, financial and reputational implications for corporations and the steps they need to take to address them.

The book tracks some of the major global developments in business and human rights, including the emergence of foreign, transnational, and international law and the proliferation of multi-stakeholder initiatives on business and human rights. Case studies from a range of sectors and industries – such as extractives, apparel, fast-moving consumer goods, electronics, and banking and finance – illustrate the enormous risks and opportunities human rights pose for business in practice.

The Business of Human Rights will equip corporate executives, sustainability practitioners, academics, students, and anyone interested in business’s impacts on society with the essential information and tools they need to quickly come up to speed with the rapidly evolving area of business and human rights.

Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables, Acknowledgements, About the Author, How This Book Came About, PART I: INTRODUCTION 7, Chapter One: What is Business and Human Rights? Chapter Two: How This Book is Structured, PART II: BUSINESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN CONTEXT, Chapter Three: The Social and Economic Context, Chapter Four: Corporate Social Responsibility Versus Business and Human Rights, Chapter Five: Background to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, PART III: THE IMPLICATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS FOR BUSINESS, Chapter Six: Legal Implications, Chapter Seven: Non-Legal Obligations and Their Implications, Chapter Eight: Preventing Modern Slavery in Corporate Supply Chains, Chapter Nine: Addressing Sexual Harassment and Discrimination in Corporate Culture, PART IV: GETTING STARTED – WHAT ACTIONS SHOULD A COMPANY TAKE? Chapter Ten: Developing a Human Rights Policy, Chapter Eleven: Assessing the Risks of Human Rights Violations in the Supply Chain, Chapter Twelve: Human Rights Due Diligence, Chapter Thirteen: Access to Remedy and Grievance Mechanisms, Chapter Fourteen: Locating Business and Human Rights in an Organisation, PART V: HUMAN RIGHTS SNAPSHOTS FROM DIFFERENT SECTORS, Chapter Fifteen: Apparel Industry, Chapter Sixteen: Fast Moving Consumer Goods Industry, Chapter Seventeen: Electronics Industry , Chapter Eighteen: Banking and Finance Industry PART VI: CONCLUSION, Chapter Nineteen, Index

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Alex Newton is a lawyer and specialist in responsible business and human rights. Her consultancy advises corporations, governments, and non-governmental organisations on a wide range of matters related to business and human rights, anti-discrimination, reputation risk, and governance. She regularly writes and speaks on these topics in Australia and internationally.


"In a world in which ESG is firmly part of the landscape, successful risk management depends on shared prosperity between companies and communities if value is to be protected. Fundamental to this is an understanding of the business value of human rights. Alex Newton’s ‘The Business of Human Rights’ is a ‘must read’ for all business leaders who want to understand the environment in which business will increasingly be conducted."

Sir Richard Shirreff, Co-founder and Managing Partner, Strategia Worldwide; formerly NATO’s Deputy Supreme Commander Europe

"The Business of Human Rights provides both a powerful argument for why businesses should take on the protection of human rights and a thoroughly practical guide book to how they can do so. It should be on the required reading list of every human rights activist and every corporate executive."

Michael W. Doyle, Columbia University, former UN Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning and Special Adviser to SG Kofi Annan

"The old business mantra that human rights are matters for politicians is even less valid in today’s world of full transparency and media- and social media-intrusive scrutiny than it ever was. Corporate reputations can stand or fall on their treatment of human rights – see the hugely costly damage to the bottom lines of those global corporates complicit in ex-South African President Zuma’s corruption. I strongly recommend Alex Newton’s The Business of Human Rights as a straight-forward and engaging guide for business executives, public officials and students."

Lord Peter Hain, Former British Cabinet Minister and Member of Parliament

"This must-read primer on business and human rights should be required reading for business, civil society and government practitioners at a time of great need for unvarnished facts and wise policy prescriptions. Author Alex Newton gives the reader, practitioner and policy-maker the needed background and information as well as the tools and equipment to do the right thing in their organizations – something that seems to be in short supply in today’s turbulent business and geopolitical world. I loved this book – practical, knowledgeable, clearly written and passionate."

Andrea Bonime-Blanc, Founder, GEC Risk Advisory, Global Strategist, Board Member and Author of Gloom to Boom: How Leaders Transform Risk into Resilience and Value (Routledge 2019)

"Alex Newton’s book, The Business of Human Rights, sets out a clear and concise account of corporate responsibility and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. By providing clear explanations and practical examples, the book takes the language out of the realm of the theoretical and is a must read for anyone seeking to understand more about the intersection of business and human rights.

New South Wales and the Commonwealth of Australia have recently legislated to require certain organisations to submit a modern slavery statement each year addressing the risk of modern slavery in supply chains. This book guides businesses and other entities about the steps they should take when applying due diligence as a way to identify and mitigate the risk of modern slavery in supply chains." 

Professor Jennifer Burn, Anti-Slavery Australia, University of Technology Sydney