Human rights are universal, mutually interdependent and indivisible. This means they are parts of a whole, that no right is more important than another, and that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
Human rights are part of international law and are enshrined in various types of international agreements such as conventions. Governments therefore have the ultimate responsibility for the protection of human rights in their respective countries. There are different types of human rights, including civil and political rights; economic, social and cultural rights; and special protection for individuals who belong to specific groups.
The companies’ responsibility is to respect human rights. Respecting human rights means that companies must avoid having a negative impact on human rights and that companies must act to prevent this from happening. This is clarified in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP) which are based on international conventions and frameworks. Companies can have an impact on human rights through their operations, supply chains, interaction with society and stakeholders and through the use of the company’s products and services. Respect for human rights is part of a healthy and sustainable business and risk management.
How does the Council on Ethics work with human rights?
The Council on Ethics expects companies to respect human rights and to work actively to implement the UNGP. This means that they must integrate respect for human rights in their activities, policies, strategy, risk management and engage and transparently report publicly about them.
Commitment and communication with stakeholders as well as transparency is necessary and important. Information relating to human rights can be sensitive information for both the company and relevant stakeholders. Despite this, the Council on Ethics encourages companies to be as transparent as possible about the dilemmas they face as well as the priorities they are forced to make regarding human rights.
In the area of human rights, the Council on Ethics has chosen to focus on child and forced labour as well as health and safety. In 2020, the Council on Ethics started a new project concerning human rights issues in the tech sector and during 2021 a project on modern slavery within the textile- and construction industries.