An excellent and comprehensive set of minutes is available from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Even though it was an exclusive meeting, the transparency provided by the reporting is admirable and helpful to the process.
The meeting was a “second pillar” meeting, i.e. addressing the obligation on business to “respect” human rights imposed by the “Protect, Respect, and Remedy” framework of the UN Guiding Principles.
Hence the quantities of baroquely intricate corporate language, such as the first speaker’s discussion of the “period of ‘absorption’ [that] has been taking place whereby leadership companies are working to integrate the UNGPs into management systems and core business processes.”
To be fair, there was discussion of specific examples and practices. A speaker from Microsoft described two human rights impact assessments his company conducted with respect to beginning and expanding operations in Myanmar and China, respectively.
The minutes note several efforts to think about fresh and/or practical ways to engage businesses that are not yet conceptually invested in the notion of human rights. For example, expanding from Health, Safety & Environment (HSE) programs, which most companies have, maintain respect for, and which have an obvious overlap with key human rights areas.
Similarly, the participants note that the most progress thus far has been made via sector-specific initiatives: companies in a sector understand their shared challenges with sufficient concreteness to conceive of potential practical steps, and may have sufficient experience working with each other to get collective efforts going in a more reasonable time. Sector-specific work is by far the most realistic possibility for meaningful results in the near future and should be prioritized. Continue reading