Earlier this month, Business at OECD (BIAC) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE) published a new guide: “Connecting the anti-corruption and human rights agendas: A guide for business and employers’ organizations.”
This guide comes at a time when several jurisdictions will be introducing new regulations on human rights due diligence, such as Switzerland and the European Union. France implemented a Corporate Duty of Vigilance law in 2017 and the Netherlands has a new Child Labor Due Diligence law. This changing landscape is putting the spotlight on human rights compliance and causing companies to rethink their compliance and sustainability functions.
As mentioned in the BIAC-IOE guide, the human rights and anti-corruption agendas overlap. But they also have inherent differences which should be considered when establishing synergies.
Breaking down silos and reducing duplications. The main takeaway from the guide is that cooperative approaches to human rights and anti-corruption compliance have to replace existing silos between compliance, legal and sustainability/corporate social responsibility functions. Several overlaps and even duplications are noted, such as due diligence processes, risk assessment, and grievance mechanisms.
Due diligence processes are time-consuming, especially since most businesses interact with numerous third parties. Looking at due diligence with a corruption and human rights lens requires a logical and coordinated approach. In terms of risk assessment, the audit and compliance functions of a company possess the relevant knowledge and skills and can therefore support the team addressing human rights issues. Internal grievance mechanisms and whistleblowing hotlines are more effective, according to the BIAC-IOE guide, when performance indicators cover misconduct related to both corruption and human rights.
Beyond understanding the data which arises from anti-corruption and human rights compliance, pushing the human rights and anti-corruption agenda forward in any business requires a strong corporate culture focusing on integrity. Generating awareness through engaged leadership teams is essential, with the end goal being to foster what the OECD calls “responsible business conduct.”
Collective Action as a solution. Human rights and anti-corruption compliance synergies can be explored through a company’s engagement in multi-stakeholder cooperation and Collective Action initiatives. Collective Action offers a framework for companies to develop sector-specific best practices through constructive exchanges with peer companies. Collaborative approaches to the joint agendas of human rights and anti-corruption could also lead to self-regulation within these dual agendas in certain industry sectors.
Interested in looking at synergies between human rights and anti-corruption compliance? The Basel Institute on Governance is convening and facilitating a series of short private-sector roundtables under the Chatham House rule. These offer an opportunity to discuss together with other companies the opportunities, risks and methodologies around human rights and corruption risk assessments, due diligence and other related issues.
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