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PR, CSR and Branding: Human Rights a Topic of High Importance for Businesses, Communities and Brand Reputation

New Global Human Rights Study Says CEOs Must Take the Lead

You might not immediately think of human rights protection as a CSR or reputation-management issue for companies, but a new report published this week by the Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by WeiserMazars and Mazars Group, indicates that a large majority of executives (83%) believe that human rights is not only a central theme at government level, but also a major topic of focus for businesses.

The study, The Road from Principle to Practice: Today’s Challenges for Business in Respecting Human Rights, draws on two main sources for its research and findings: A global online survey of over 850 respondents, of which nearly 50% are C-level executives or board members; and nine in-depth interviews with independent experts, including human rights specialists from Harvard, Human Rights Watch and the Institute of Human Rights, as well as senior executives from major companies including Coca Cola, UBS and Anglo American.

Seventy-one percent of business leaders said that their firm’s responsibility to respect human rights goes beyond mere obedience to local laws. Corporate attitudes are evolving quickly, with 44% of respondents stating that human rights are an issue on which CEOs should take the lead, and companies are integrating human rights considerations into their policy making. However, only 22% of respondents said that they have a publicly available human rights policy.

The responses indicate that companies do not see a business case focused on immediate costs and benefits for human rights, but rather see respecting human rights as a leading driver in building good relationships with local communities (48%); protecting the company’s brand and reputation (43%); and serving moral/ethical considerations (41%).

“These results demonstrate the growing importance of considering human rights as a core element of business practices,” said Howard Dorman, WeiserMazars partner and U.S. leader of the Human Rights Initiative, in a news release. “We are proud to be able to support this global movement working to ensure that human rights are respected and protected.”

Respondents listed a lack of understanding of their company’s responsibilities and a lack of training and education as the first and third most common barriers to progress in this area and further indicated that public benchmarking, having access to reliable information and making human rights due diligence a legal requirement would support them in embedding within their corporate culture a sense of responsibility for respecting human rights. Requiring mandatory reporting on human rights was also highlighted as an enabler for better rights performance.

“Executives are now expecting a comprehensive framework to better implement their human rights policy,” said Richard Karmel, global head of business and human rights at Mazars Group, in the release. “The launch of the UN Guiding Principles reporting framework is Mazars’ answer for both business and society.”

The sponsors of this international study include: WeiserMazars LLP and Mazars Group, DLA Piper, Lilly, Global Business Initiative, Telenor Group and Universal Rights Group; and supported by: International Chamber of Commerce, IPIECA, International Organisation of Employers, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and The Foreign & Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom.

Source: Business Wire; edited by Richard Carufel

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