On December 31 2014, Forbes magazine published the article, Eight CSR Trends to Watch Out For in 2015. Of the eight corporate social responsibility trends presented, the prediction from Christine Bader (formerly responsible for human rights matters at BP and the author of 2014’s The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil) that companies step up to tackle human rights issues domestically and globally resonates particularly strongly when you consider the following developments and activities that have recently occurred or will be occurring in 2015:
- In March 2015 the U.S. government will be taking over the Chairmanship for the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. The Voluntary Principles is a set of principles that guide oil, gas, and mining companies on providing security for their operations in a manner that respects human rights.
- In the aforementioned Forbes article, Ms. Bader reports that over 2000 individuals attended last month’s United Nations’ 2014 Business and Human Rights forum, a number way up from the estimated 1500 individuals that attended the previous year.
- In September 2014 the U.S. government announced its decision to launch a National Action Plan (NAP) on Responsible Business Conduct. This is truly a significant action and shows the United States taking on a leadership role among the world’s nations for protecting human rights against infringement by economic actors and promoting business enterprises’ respect for human rights, as laid out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
- Emphasizing the inclusive approach the U.S. government is taking towards the development of a U.S. National Action Plan (NAP), the Department of State has created opportunities for business, civil society, and the public to provide input in 2015 through a series of information exchange events throughout the country (California, Oklahoma, and Washington D.C.). The first event was conducted at NYU Stern– NYU’s Business School – on December 15, 2014 and was co-hosted by the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights and the United States Council for International Business. Input can also be provided through future webinars and through direct written input to the Department of State. However, you’ll need to hurry if you want to provide input in the near term: the deadline for the first round of submissions is January 15, 2015.
- The establishment of U.S. government business and human rights reporting requirements for U.S. firms operating in Myanmar continues to facilitate human rights due diligence from companies that meet the reporting criteria.
- Likewise, the U.S. government’s Dodd-Frank conflict minerals provisions for companies that source specified minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo and other covered countries continues to help minimize the exploitation and trade in conflict minerals by armed groups in the DRC region. Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act also requires companies registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to publicly report how much they pay governments for access to oil, gas, and minerals.
- In December 2014 the International Code of Conduct Association (ICoCA) held its first Annual General Assembly meeting in London. The ICoCA was established in 2013 to provide oversight and ensure implementation of the human rights and humanitarian law commitments laid out in the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Services Providers (ICoC).
- In 2015 the continued adoption of new human rights and security standards and management frameworks (ANSI/ASIS PCS.1 and The International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers) by private security companies and their clients, and the emergence of third party certification bodies to audit to the standards, will continue to further differentiate among security providers (and utilizers) and will create providers of choice in the private security industry.
When a business publication as established and respected as Forbes points out that the rising trend of business and human rights is on companies’ radars it shows that the concept has come of age.