Why should businesses respect human rights?
June 1, 2023
A respect for human rights is not just a moral obligation, but also a fundamental necessity for any business that seeks to operate in a just, inclusive, and sustainable environment.
Businesses’ failure to respect and prioritize human rights in their operations could result in many adverse impacts on their employees, customers, and community.
For instance, the near absence and lack of standard ramps has become a widespread human rights issue in Mongolia affecting various group of people including persons with disabilities despite the existence of building standards for construction companies.
Businesses’ failure to pay their employees on time or not at all and injuries or even loss of lives caused by not complying with the proper safety standards are also serious violations of human rights.
These are just some examples of how business operations could infringe on human rights or worse abuse it despite their critical roles and contribution to development of the country and creation of jobs.
Businesses may feel that "human rights" as a sole the responsibility of the state not critical or even related to their operation. But that is simply not the case. In fact, businesses need to integrate human rights into their organizational policies, culture, and daily operations and it can be done without incurring significant expenses or facing big challenges.
This is the crucial awareness raising and advocacy that UNDP is working on through the Business and Human Rights Global project, funded by the Government of Japan since 2022.
To date, the project successfully engaged over 230 representatives from over 140 companies on business and human rights principles, particularly on "human rights due diligence" a tool to identify, prevent, mitigate, and account for potential human rights impacts in business operations.
Through this experience, we have noticed many businesses lack awareness of human rights and often don't recognize their actions as being related to human rights. For instance, they may take steps to uphold human rights without explicitly labeling it as such, instead viewing it from a sustainability or integrity standpoint.
Furthermore, many were unaware of why businesses must prioritize human rights in every stage and aspect of their operations. For instance, a holding company that complies with all applicable laws and regulations can still face operational, reputational, and legal risks if its supply and value chain contractors abuse human rights by exploiting their workers, failing to provide them with timely wages, or subjecting them to hazardous and toxic working conditions.
In other words, our experience and insight thus far clearly showed the profound need for trainings on business and human rights to enhance their awareness and understanding in Mongolia.
Moreover, investors, consumers, and the public are also demanding that businesses maximize their positive impacts on the environment and human rights. This is also beneficial for the company as businesses that prioritize human rights in their operations can achieve long-term sustainability, high employee retention rates, increased employee satisfaction, enhanced reputation, quality goods and services, and even attract potential international investors.
As a result of our training, we are also excited to witness the keen interest and prompt action of businesses for integrating human rights principles into their operation, such as changing employee clock-in tracking system, initiating mental health programs for employees, increasing salaries, improving waste management, and creating effective grievance mechanism.
So, I sincerely hope that businesses can recognize and understand that respecting human rights is an investment you can make in your business today that would yield substantial long-term benefits for the company and society.
Ariunaa Tumurtogoo: Business and Human Rights Analyst, UNDP Mongolia