This CEO Guide is a call to action to our peers.

It provides insight into how companies are meeting the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and shares actions business leaders are taking to get ahead, and stay ahead, in this crucial space.

Companies affect human rights every day in their interactions with employees, suppliers, consumers, partners and communities

The business responsibility is clear

The three pillars of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights:


States have a duty to protect people against human rights abuses by third parties, including business.

They are expected to prevent, investigate, punish and redress abuses through policies, legislation, regulation and adjudication.


Business has a responsibility to respect human rights.

It should address adverse human rights impacts that may result from its own activities and its business relationships.



Affected people must be able to access remedy.

Both states and business have roles to play in ensuring access to remedy when negative impacts occur.


A company’s responsibility to respect human rights encompasses:

  • Its own operations, including joint ventures and other forms of partnerships.
  • Its business relationships with public and private entities in its value chain, including suppliers, labor contractors, distributors and business customers.

Practical actions are well defined

How business is expected to implement the respect and remedy pillars:


Commit to respect human rights

Embed human rights policy in the company’s culture


Identify potential and actual human rights impacts

Act upon the findings

Track company’s performance on preventing and mitigating impacts

Communicate the company’s efforts


Establish operational-level grievance mechanisms

Provide for or cooperate in remediation

Four forces are driving business action beyond compliance

Action points for CEOs to advance respect for human rights

KNOW the most important human rights for your company

Identify risks to people and assess their relative severity, especially by listening closely to those affected by the company’s products and services, operations and supply chains.

Keep track of emerging hot topics, by industry (e.g. cobalt supply chains in electronics and e-vehicle battery manufacturing) and public attention level (e.g. #metoo).

Be prepared to communicate on challenges faced and the company’s efforts to continuously improve.

LEAD from the top

Send a clear and unequivocal human rights message to staff across the organization, from R&D to procurement to sales and marketing, to present a shared vision.

Empower staff to set clear expectations in their dealings with business partners whose practices can impact human rights.

Provide the performance objectives, incentives, and resources staff need to address human rights issues effectively, and discuss them openly.

ENGAGE transparently with stakeholders

Demonstrate that your company values its relationships with people and society by being personally aware, prepared and willing to take action.

Listen directly to stakeholders whom your business can impact to understand their perspectives and the difference your decisions and actions can make to their lives.

Share your human rights message with stakeholders including investors, industry peers and government officials.

COLLABORATE Beyond your comfort zone

Engage other CEOs in your industry to build the leverage needed to change incentives in supply chains at scale.

Establish dialogue and partnerships with stakeholders, including government, international non-governmental organizations and civil society.

Incentivize your team to think about root causes and develop unique collaborations with the power to move the needle on these intractable issues.

Copyright © 2024
World Business Council
for Sustainable Development

All rights reserved
Privacy Policy


Avenue du Bouchet 2bis,
1209 Geneva,

Tel: +41 (22) 839 3100

How to find us

Share This