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“Business and Human Rights”: Towards a Responsible Value Chain

Background

After WW II, the importance of the role of corporations in improving the standard of living and creating jobs was recognized, but at the same time, there was a growing social concern about the negative impact of corporate activities on society. Since the 1970s, there has been a strong demand for responsible corporate behavior, especially from corporations with global activities. As interest in respect for human rights in corporate activities has increased, discussions have been held mainly at the United Nations, and concrete measures have been taken (for details, see "International efforts to date"). In particular, “the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights”, agreed to by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, have become a fundamental international document on how to respect human rights in business activities.

Various policies that promote respect for human rights by business enterprises are being implemented in various countries, and business enterprises with cross-border activities are not only required to comply with the domestic laws and regulations of the countries in which they operate; their actions are also evaluated based on international standards. Regardless of the size of the company, it is necessary to identify risks resulting from a company's failure to respect human rights, including those of suppliers, and to take appropriate measures to mitigate any such risks.

Respect for human rights in corporate activities is an important element of ESG investment, and it falls within the "social" category of "environment," "social," and "governance.” It is becoming increasingly important in terms of attracting ESG funds. Investors are increasingly expecting companies to disclose information on their human rights initiatives and to engage in dialogue with a wide range of stakeholders based on this information.

In October 2020, the Japanese government formulated the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (hereinafter referred to as the "NAP") in order to encourage Japanese companies to take further action in light of the recent increase in public demand regarding corporate activities and human rights. Respect for human rights in corporate activities is not only a natural responsibility required by society, but also contributes to addressing business risks, enhances trust from the international community, and leads to high evaluations by investors from around the globe. The Government expects Japanese business enterprises to fulfill their responsibilities in terms of respecting human rights and to resolve issues with effective grievance mechanisms, aiming to foster an environment where Japanese business enterprises that are implementing such measures will be fairly evaluated.

In light of this background, this website introduces international frameworks on "business and human rights" initiatives in Europe, the United States, and other countries, as well as information on related surveys and events, in order to help Japanese business enterprises respond appropriately to various situations that may arise in relation to human rights and the value chain.

International Efforts to Date

There are guidelines from various international organizations as an international framework for "business and human rights"

United Nations ”Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights”:

This principle was unanimously endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011. These Guiding Principles are grounded in recognition of:

(a) States’ existing obligations to respect, protect and fulfil human rights and fundamental freedoms;

(b) The role of business enterprises as specialized organs of society that perform specialized functions, which are required to comply with all applicable laws and to respect human rights;

(c) The need for rights and obligations to be matched to appropriate and effective remedies when breached

In addition to reaffirming the obligation of the state to protect human rights, the guidelines clearly state that business enterprises have a responsibility to respect human rights in their corporate activities and value chain. The guidelines also stipulate the implementation of "human rights due diligence" as a concrete method of respecting human rights.

The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises:

This is a guideline formulated by the OECD in 1976, which recommends that multinational corporations voluntarily maintain responsible business conduct.

⇒In Japan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) have established National Contact Points (NCPs) for multinational enterprises to disseminate information on the OECD Guidelines, handle related inquires and support problem solving.

NCPs: National Contact Points for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises外部リンク

"OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct":

This is guidance developed by the OECD in 2018, which provides practical ways of implementing the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
For some sectors, such as clothing and footwear, minerals, etc., there are detailed guidance documents based on the risks specific to that industry.

United Nations Global Compact:

This is an initiative launched at the UN headquarters in 2000 which calls for business enterprises to adhere to and practice ten principles in four areas: human rights, labor rights, environment, and anti-corruption.

Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI):

This is a list of investment principles for institutional investors that includes, among other things, incorporating ESG perspectives into their investments.

⇒ In October 2020, PRI released a new report which sets out clear expectations for investors based on global human rights standards and provides recommendations on the integration of human rights into investment practices.

ILO ”Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy”:

This is also known as the "ILO Declaration on Multinational Enterprises" and is a document that provides direct guidance to business enterprises (both multinational and domestic) on social policy and inclusive, responsible and sustainable business practices.

UN Special Representative John Ruggie ”Protect, Respect and Remedy: a Framework for Business and Human Rights”:

This is a framework that UN Special Representative John Ruggie(Harvard University Professor)proposed at the 8th UN Human Rights Council in 2008. The paper categorizes the relationship between multinational corporations and human rights, and lists specific areas and examples in which each entity should carry out its duties and responsibilities.

”The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” in which the 2015 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is fully incorporated:

The SDGs is a set of 17 goals to be achieved by 2030, which was adopted unanimously at a UN summit in September, 2015.

Japan's Approach to Human Rights

In October 2020, the Government of Japan formulated the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (NAP) based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. In cooperation with the relevant ministries and agencies, we are working to disseminate and raise awareness of this action plan to the industrial world.
In addition, industry organizations are working on initiatives related to "business and human rights", such as promoting efforts to respect human rights among their member business enterprises and raising awareness of international guidelines.

*We will continue to update this page as additional information becomes available, so if you are an organization that would like to be listed, please contact us at the bottom of this page.

Japanese Government

Industry Organizations

Related Organizations

Related Event Information

The following is an introduction to various events related to "Business and Human Rights".

Related Links (Websites and Documents)

Japanese Government and Related Organizations

The Japanese government is working together with related ministries and agencies to promote and raise awareness of "Business and Human Rights", and as a part of this effort, each ministry and agency provides information on their respective websites.

Foreign Governments

Governments in Europe and the U.S. are also working to promote and raise awareness of "Business and Human Rights," and information is being disseminated on their websites, mainly by the diplomatic and economic administrative agencies of each country.

(US)

(EU)

(UK)

(Germany)

(France)

(Australia)

(International organizations, etc.)

Inquiries

Last updated:2021-08-12