The Corporate Human Rights 2017 Benchmark is a pilot project led by a not-for-profit company backed by a number of global investment management firms, governmental departments in the UK, Switzerland and the Netherlands, and various international foundation.  The overarching goal of the Benchmark is to create the first open and transparent public benchmark of corporate human rights performance in order to encourage companies to improve their human rights practices.

The pilot project rated 98 of the largest publicly traded companies in the Agricultural Products, Apparel, and Extractive industries in the world based on 100 human rights indicators, the  UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights, and the companies’  publicly available human rights policies, processes, and performance.  The three focus industries were selected following multi-stakeholder consultation, taking into account their high human rights risks, the extent of previous work on the issue, and global economic significance.

A number of key messages emerged from the results.  In general, the 2017 Benchmark report reveals fairly low scores, with the vast majority of companies scoring under the 50% mark. Of the small group of companies that scored above 50%, only three placed in the 60-69% range. The report concludes that such results reflect the “relatively early stage most companies are at in implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights.”

The Benchmark calls on businesses to implement corporate responsibility to respect human rights under the UN Guiding Principles, and to study the 2017 Benchmark report to see where improvements can be made.

As the National Post has pointed out, the Benchmark is not without its critics.  Further, it remains to be seen whether the not-for-profit company leading the charge will expand the rankings beyond the initial three focus industries.

Written with the assistance of Kevin Schoenfeldt, summer student.

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