Introducing the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark

By: Alexandra Kueller

Is it possible to have a human rights benchmarking and ranking system for companies? According to a group of investors, an NGO, a think tank, and a research agency, the answer is yes. How soon could this system be a reality? Well, right now!

Last December, the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) was officially launched at the 3rd Annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights. A total of 500 companies from four key sectors (agriculture, ITC, apparel, and extractives) will be the first to be researched and ranked, and by developing a transparent, publicly available, and credible benchmark, the aim is that the CHRB will help drive the markets to deliver better human rights performance.

The Benchmark is hoping to create a “race to the top” such as other industry-specific initiatives have done. Some examples are Oxfam’s Behind the Brands, which is a competition between food and beverage companies to eliminate land grabs, enhance the status of women in their supply chains, and reduce carbon emissions, and the Access to Medicine Index, which publicly recognizes companies for the raising awareness of relevant issues within the pharmaceutical industry, their investments in access to medicine, etc.

With the ranking system underway, here are what people are saying about the CHRB:

  • Phil Bloomer, Business and Human Rights Resource Center: “The ranking will be a tool for campaigners, trade unions, investors and governments to encourage and press companies to deliver respect, dignity and essential freedoms to their workers, neighbouring communities, and the societies in which they invest.”
  • Bennett Freeman, Calvert Investments: “As investors become increasingly aware of human rights-related risk across sectors and asset classes, this framework will be a critical due diligence tool for evaluating how companies are managing those risks.”
  • John Morrison, Institute for Human Rights and Business: “[The CHRB] will seek to assess the reality behind companies’ public commitments, including what they do to address negative impacts when things go wrong, and what kinds of collaborations they undertake to scale their resources.”
  • Steve Waygood, Aviva Investors: “Our Benchmark will introduce a positive competitive environment as companies try to race to the top of the annual ranking. It will also shine a light on those where performance needs to improve.”

Do you think this new benchmark could be a success? Let us know in the comments below!