Respect for human rights is a key aspect of sustainable development and a baseline expectation of all businesses. Companies cannot ‘offset’ human rights abuses by compensating for harm in one area by performing good deeds in another.
Following international endorsement of the UN’s Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework in 2008, and the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) in 2011, there is a clear expectation that business has a responsibility to respect human rights. The UNGPs enjoy widespread support and the key elements have been incorporated into other international standards, including the International Financial Corporation’s (IFC) Performance Standards and the OECD’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
Nationally, human rights are protected in many jurisdictions by domestic law, with which companies must comply, but some governments are going further and using the UNGPs to extend or create new policies and regulations. These plans may lead to increased expectations on companies to communicate how they are addressing human rights impacts. For example, in some jurisdictions there are new reporting requirements on specific human rights issues, such as slavery and forced labour.
ICMM fully supports the UNGPs, and was deeply involved in the consultations that led to their development. They provide comprehensive recommendations for companies to help them ‘know and show’ they are delivering against their responsibilities in practice. These, in turn, have influenced ICMM’s own guidance for mining and metals companies on how to ensure respect for human rights through due diligence and the provision of effective avenues of complaint and redress. See, Integrating human rights due diligence into corporate risk management processes and Handling and resolving local level concerns and grievances.
ICMM is also an observer to the Voluntary Principles Initiative on Security and Human Rights. The voluntary principles bring together representatives from government, civil society and extractive companies (including a number of our members) and are ‘designed to guide companies in maintaining the safety and security of their operations within an operating framework that encourages respect for human rights.’ ICMM, in partnership with IFC and the International Committee of the Red Cross, has produced Voluntary principles on security and human rights: implementation guidance tools.
Mining and metals companies have a responsibility to respect the human rights of the communities that they affect and the people they employ. There is clear evidence that through appropriate policy and governance frameworks, mining and metals operations can help bolster the delivery of economic and social rights through poverty alleviation, the provision of essential infrastructure and social investments. But equally, when the interests of local communities are not properly taken into account industry can adversely affect people’s health, livelihoods, safety and security.