Businesses are increasingly required to demonstrate sound understanding and good practice around human rights standards and wider social issues, both in managing their risks and impacts, and as an indicator of good corporate responsibility.
The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, unanimously endorsed by the Human Rights Council in 2011, emphasize that while governments have a duty to protect human rights, business enterprises have a responsibility to respect human rights. The Sustainable Development Goals also have as core aim to “realize the human rights of all”, encompassing civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. At the same time, they strive to reduce inequality, promote equity and inclusion. “Human rights and equity” are one of the four principles underpinning UN Environment approach to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
Since 2006, UNEP FI has been exploring the intricacies between human rights and the finance sector. UNEP FI aims to de-mystify the jargon surrounding the social agenda, and clarify how human rights and wider social issues relate to the activities of finance institutions. To date, work has focused on creating dialogue around finance and human rights and developing guidance for financial institutions on how to address their human rights impacts. Increasingly, the work will expand into highlighting and consolidating the linkages between the environment and human rights issues in promoting a sustainable finance approach, as well as addressing social risks and opportunities in a holistic manner. This will include promoting equity and inclusion as a strong component of the transition towards a just, green economy.