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Substantive engagement with the business sector

OHCHR and business and human rights

The Business and Human Rights Unit (available at [email protected]) regularly engages with business regarding the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and other substantive issues. Such engagement is structured around the following pillars:

  • Global policy and standard setting: OHCHR’s global policy-related work often includes the active involvement and consultation of business. For instance, each phase of the Accountability and Remedy Project has benefited from inputs from a wide range of relevant stakeholders, including business enterprises and organizations. Other initiatives include the B-Tech Project, which applies the lens of the UNGPs to some of the core human rights challenges in tech and involves extensive engagement and participation from tech companies.
  • Capacity building: OHCHR’s work has a strong focus on capacity building to help business respond to the challenges of different operational contexts. A major work stream is the Business Peer-Learning Project, where the Business and Human Rights Unit (BHRU) facilitates national- or regional-level business peer-learning workshops to discuss challenges, lessons learned and good practices in the implementation of the UNGPs in a given context. Additionally, a major goal of our project on Responsible Business Conduct in Latin America and the Caribbean is to support responsible business practices in the region, with a focus on building capacity on human rights due diligence and access to remedy.
  • Ad hoc engagement with individual companies: The BHRU is frequently approached by companies for advice on how to “get started” on human rights or on specific challenges. Advice is often provided informally, unless specifically agreed otherwise.
  • Business outreach: The BHRU conducts extensive business outreach, for example through speaking at sector- or company-specific events or participating in webinars organized by companies or business organizations.
  • Participation in multi-stakeholder platforms and initiatives: OHCHR advises a range of platforms and initiatives with business involvement, including the International Cocoa Initiative, the World Economic Forum, the Centre for Sport and Human Rights, the FIFA Independent Human Rights Advisory Board, and the Geneva Centre for Business and Human Rights.

Substantive engagement with business also occurs through the independent Working Group on Business and Human Rights and their OHCHR secretariat. For instance, the Working Group team organizes the Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights, which is the world's largest annual gathering on business and human rights, and which has recently averaged around 3,000 participants per year, one third being from the business sector.

Beyond substantive engagement, OHCHR works together with business on various projects.