UN Global Compact Publishes Study by Anthony Ewing

Human Rights and Crisis Management

As expectations of corporate responsibility become increasingly specific, leading companies are finding ways to integrate environmental, social and governance standards with existing corporate functions. Since the endorsement of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in 2011, for example, global businesses have begun to integrate human rights standards into there operations. Demonstrating respect for human rights has become an important performance goal for leading companies.

Logos Senior Fellow Anthony Ewing identifies best practices for integrating human rights into corporate crisis planning in a Good Practice Note recently published by the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative.

HR Impact Management Chart

Ewing’s research brings together corporate crisis management and human rights impact management, two disciplines with important areas of overlap. His Note argues that by integrating human rights considerations into crisis planning, companies are better prepared to meet their responsibility to respect human rights, the global standard detailed in the UN Guiding Principles. The corporate responsibility to respect human rights requires business enterprises to avoid infringing on the human rights of others and to address adverse human rights impacts connected to their operations. While most companies have yet to include adverse human rights impacts in their crisis management policies and procedures, companies that do so are better equipped to identify, prevent and address adverse human rights impacts.

Effective crisis management is a dynamic process that includes early warning mechanisms, assessment and escalation protocols, policies to guide crisis response, and preparedness training. Human rights impact management is an emerging discipline that encompasses corporate policy commitments to respect human rights and corporate efforts to identify and address a company’s human rights impacts, negative or positive. These include conducting human rights due diligence; acting to prevent, mitigate and/or remedy adverse human rights impacts; and communicating how impacts are addressed. Leading companies are making the corporate responsibility to respect human rights part of their framework for managing crises. Ultimately, companies should fully integrate human rights impact management into all phases of corporate crisis management, from crisis planning through crisis response and recovery.

Effective crisis planning requires companies to appropriately define a crisis, to identify and prioritize crisis scenarios, and to assign crisis roles and responsibilities. The Good Practice Note identifies five good practices for integrating human rights considerations into crisis planning:

  • Define corporate crises to include adverse human rights impacts.
  • Ensure that enterprise risk management includes adverse human rights impacts.
  • Make human rights due diligence the benchmark for identifying and prioritizing human rights issues.
  • Add adverse human rights impacts to corporate scenario planning.
  • Establish clear roles and responsibilities for managing adverse human rights impacts as crises.

Corporate examples in the Note are drawn from multinational businesses in the banking, extractive and consumer products sectors.

At Logos, Anthony works with clients to establish and strengthen crisis management programs. Human Rights considerations – in global supply chains, in relationships with business partners and customers, and in communities where companies operate – are part of a comprehensive approach to compliance and risk management.

Anthony has taught corporate responsibility at Columbia University since 2001 and is a member of the United Nations Global Compact Human Rights and Labour Working Group.

For more information about our work in this area, please contact Anthony Ewing at: aewing@logosconsulting.net.

(Download PDF of the Good Practice Note.)

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