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Trinity report finds companies fall short in human rights due diligence

November 25th, 2020

Opening Remarks of BHR 2020 Report
  • Firms and state-owned enterprises in Ireland encouraged to follow UN Guiding Principles 
  • 2020 National Benchmark Report of Business and Human Rights in Ireland to be launched

On Wednesday November 25th, between 5-6pm, the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) in Trinity Business School, Trinity College Dublin, is hosting a webinar to launch the 2020 National Benchmark Report of Business & Human Rights in Ireland

Keynote speeches from Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence, Simon Coveney TD, and CEO of the Irish Exporters Association, Simon McKeever, will highlight the importance of this issue and the increasing focus on industry compliance with UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights (UNGPs) in Ireland. 

The report assesses 50 of the largest publicly listed companies operating in Ireland and 10 of the largest semi-states using the internationally recognised Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) methodology (see report below)

The benchmark examines firms’ human rights policies, due diligence and access to remedies based on publicly available documents produced by the companies, providing a transparent measure of a firm’s disclosure of their approach to human rights. Investors, consumers and policymakers are increasingly focused this issue and a low score - indicating a lack of relevant information – means that these audiences cannot make informed decisions and society at large remains in the dark about a company’s intentions and impact. 

The report indicates that benchmarked Irish companies perform poorly across all areas of the human rights disclosure, but especially in the area of due diligence. 

One bright spot is the performance of Kerry Group, which significantly improved on its 2019 benchmark results by developing and publishing a comprehensive Human Rights Statement in 2020.  

The semi-state companies – benchmarked for the first time in Ireland or anywhere else – came out even lower than their corporate counterparts, with no benchmark score above 4 points out of 26 (15.4%).

The UNGPs place a specific responsibility on states to advance corporate respect for human rights through semi-state companies. As the UNGPs approach their tenth anniversary in 2021, the report suggests this has yet to occur in Ireland. At the event, panel members will highlight the challenges in and importance of the UNGPs for Irish business and society more generally. In the National Plan on Business and Human Rights 2017-2020, the government has committed to "promote responsible business practices at home and overseas by all Irish business enterprises in line with Ireland’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights globally and to being one of the best countries in the world in which to do business". 

The CSI report suggests that there is a long way to go for Irish business and public policy to be convincing on human rights policies and practices.

Minister Coveney described the report as “a valuable baseline for many Irish companies” and said: 

“This report comes at an auspicious time when a number of important factors are coalescing nationally, within the EU and at the UN. At national level, our new Programme for Government includes a number of commitments on Business and Human Rights and this has given new impetus to the work to implement our National Plan. In the coming weeks we will launch a toolkit to help businesses to better familiarise themselves with their responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles. At EU level, the Justice Commissioner has announced a sustainable corporate governance initiative to foster long-term sustainable and responsible corporate behaviour, while the UN has launched the UNGPs 10+ / Next Decade BHR project which will review the implementation of the UNGPs to date and chart a course for a decade of action on business and human rights.” 

Mary Lee Rhodes, co-Director of the Trinity Centre for Social Innovation, commented:

The 2020 benchmark report highlights the significant gap between aspirations and explicit commitments to the UN Guiding Principles for Business & Human Rights in Ireland. We can and must close this gap using every means at our disposal. The CHRB provides a transparent and straightforward map to begin this journey." 

Read the full report here.

Watch the launch here.

For further information contact:  Mary Lee Rhodes (087-915-2769), Co-Director, Trinity Centre for Social Innovation