Human rights in supply chains: Promoting positive practice
Many businesses lack clear strategies and processes to monitor and manage human rights risks in their supply chains, despite recent high profile violations, new research finds.
In a landmark collaboration, the Australian Human Rights Commission, Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (ACCSR) and the Global Compact Network Australia sought to map how Australian businesses currently deal with human rights issues in their supply chains.
The report shows that Australian business is increasingly recognising its responsibility to do the right thing, but also the risk of not doing the right thing. Increased media attention around labour rights violations in Australia, particularly in reference to fresh food supply chains and significant underpayments in retail, has cemented this understanding, highlighting that this is not just an offshore issue.
This report provides a unique insight into the current drivers, practices, and challenges of Australian businesses in managing human rights in their supply chains. It provides practical guidance to help business identify and address human rights risks in their supply chains including through reference to core international standards such as the UN Global Compact and UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
- Addressing human rights issues has become more important to Australian businesses since 2009, and businesses are increasingly linking human rights issues to their supply chains.
- Businesses say that they are committed to human rights because it is the right thing to do. They are also seeking to align with employee values and expectations and build brand and reputation as a responsible business.
- Businesses tend to focus their human rights efforts where they have direct operational control. Consequently, they place high importance on traditional workplace issues such health and safety, non-discrimination, and diversity and inclusion.
- While they have the aspiration and commitment to address human rights impacts in their supply chains, many businesses lack clear strategies and processes to trace, monitor and address such risks.
- Limited visibility into suppliers’ practices, and limited staff capacity and authority to address human rights impacts are the biggest barriers to Australian businesses improving their management of human rights issues in their supply chains.
“Companies are often still daunted by human rights issues, yet the research confirms that they are looking to do the right thing. Collaboration is key to strengthening supply chain visibility and achieving lasting change – with peers, civil society, governments and suppliers,” said Alice Cope, Executive Manager, Global Compact Network Australia