Business Enterprises’ Responsibilities of Respecting Human Rights

In the past decades, corporate social responsibility (CSR) emerged  with the aim of ensuring that enterprises run their business in an ethical way. This means that enterprises hold responsibility towards society and environment. For example, enterprises can develop relationships with their employees and customers. In addition, they can involve activities that aim at environment protection.  

However, enterprises carry out corporate social responsibility selectively. In other words, they have voluntary options to tackle certain activities. Nonetheless, a human- right approach demands enterprises regard all human rights; this indicates that enterprises have no options to only tackle social issues that are appropriate to them. Consequently, in 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council issued a framework regarding  the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

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This framework is divided into three parts. The first part is the government’s task to protect against human rights abuses. The second is the enterprise’s responsibility to ensure respect of human rights, and the third is access to remedy. In this regard, this essay will present the enterprises’ responsibility of safeguarding human rights.

According to the United Nations Human Rights Council (2011), there are fourteen principles that regulate business enterprises responsibility of maintaining  human rights. These principles are divided into two sections: foundation principles, and operation and remedy principles. The discussion below presents the foundation principles

The first principle is that  business enterprises should avoid violating human rights of others and tackle reverse human rights impacts with which they are involved. As for avoiding human rights violations, mainly of others, all business enterprises have to apply the responsibility of respecting human rights in accordance with international norms regardless of where these people are located.

This denotes that enterprises have to apply national laws and regulations that respect human rights. In addition, they are willing to perform their human rights commitments completely without minimizing any of them. Furthermore, business enterprises should not undermine the abilities of government to meet their own human rights commitments. For example, actions that may weaken the safety of judicial processes should be relegated.

In terms of tackling reverse human rights effects, it is required that enterprises take into  accounts appropriate preventive measures that would reduce human right violations.

The second principle addresses business enterprises’ respect of human rights; this is based on the application of the key principles published by the International Labour Organization. In this regard, the International Labour Organization published a list of key human rights that contain civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights.

Moreover, business enterprises could take into account additional norms according to their circumstances. This would help in avoiding the negative effects on human rights. For example, business enterprises may have groups who need special attention; these are often religious, gender, and ethnic groups. Therefore, the responsibility of business enterprises is to respect human rights in issues wider than in those of legal liability, which remain defined by national law.

The third principle is that the responsibility of business enterprises is to respect  human rights, and this requires the following:

A)      Business enterprises should avoid activities that cause or contribute to reverse human rights effects, and if such effects happen, they must be tackled.

B)     Exploring adverse human rights effects that are directly related to their operations, products, or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those effects.

To avoid adverse human rights effects as a result of business enterprises’ activities or their relationships with others, the United Nation has elaborated a principle that presents how business enterprises are ought to tackle these situations.

The fourth principle is that the application of human rights respect lies within the responsibility of all business enterprises regardless of their size, sector, ownership or structure. However, the level of application could be different from one  enterprise to another according to these factors.

In the other words, to respect human rights,  business enterprises should choose the means that are appropriate with their size and other factors. For instance, small and medium enterprises could have fewer processes and management structures than large enterprises; therefore, respective policies and processes will take different forms. Nonetheless, the responsibility to respect human rights applies completely and equally to all business enterprises.

The final principle is that business enterprises should be in charge of  human rights respect through commitment to their responsibilities, thus defining, preventing, reducing and the remedying this impact on human rights. All these policies and processes should be suitable to business enterprises’ size and circumstances.

Overall, these five principles focus on the responsibilities of business enterprises pertaining their respect of  human rights regardless of their characteristics. This will be through avoiding any violation of human rights, and tackling reverse human rights effects. Thus, business enterprises may take into account the needs of special people such as those of  religious groups.