Human Rights Working Group for Business
14 December 2010 at 4:45 pm
Australia’s first Human Rights Working Group for Business has been launched by the Global Compact Network Australia to assist corporate signatories meet their human rights obligations under the UN Global Compact.
According to the Global Compact Network Australia, the Human Rights Working Group for Business aims to facilitate shared learning on human rights challenges and opportunities amongst Australian corporations by providing practical guidance through expert facilitators and tools, as well as providing a forum for best practice sharing.
The Global Compact Network Australia (GCNA) is the local network of the United National Global Compact (UNGC) – the world’s largest voluntary corporate citizenship initiative. The UNGC represents an agreement between business and UN agencies, labour, civil society and governments to advance ten universal principles across four key areas – human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption.
A statement from the GCNA says the working group reflects the transitioning role of business into areas traditionally seen as solely the concern of governments. Signatories to the Global Compact are expected to support and respect the protection of human rights, as well as make sure they are not complicit in human rights abuses.
The working group was launched by the Global Compact Network Australia – a local network of the UN Global Compact (UNGC) together with the support of the Australian Human Rights Commission, World Vision Australia CEO Reverend Tim Costello, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and some of Australia’s most prominent corporations and investors on Human Rights Day, December 10.
A range of industries were represented in the first Working Group, with participants including ANZ, BHP Billiton, Intrepid Travel, Origin Energy, Rio Tinto, Sebel Furniture, Telstra and Woolworth. Discussion covered the foundations of human rights and their relevance to business, the business and legal cases for respecting human rights and industry specific issues such as supply chain management.
President of the Australian Human Rights Commission Catherine Branson says growing numbers of Australian companies are recognising that doing business in a way that demonstrates respect for human rights is not only the correct thing to do, it makes good business sense.
She says the Australian Human Rights Commission is looking forward to working in partnership with the working group to advance business understanding of, and respect for, human rights.
Vanessa Zimmerman, Legal Adviser to Harvard Professor John Ruggie, UN Special Representative for Business and Human Rights presented the Special Representative’s recently released draft Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to the working group. In congratulating the GCNA on the working group’s establishment, the Special Representative noted that companies working to know and show that they are respecting human rights can benefit significantly from engaging with other companies facing the same dilemmas with the hope that they can come together as leaders to raise standards of behaviour.
The Human Rights Working Group for Business aims to meet four ties in 2011 across Australia.
The GCNA is housed at St James Ethics Centre, Sydney. For more information visit http://thehub.ethics.org.au/ungc/