There is an unquestionable connection between the framework of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights adopted in 2011, which set out the responsibility of business to respect human rights, and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals established in 2015 to, among other goals, make human rights a reality for all people. This relationship is reflected, along with the analysis of business progress and challenges in this area, in the guide published by the Spanish Network of the Global Compact «Business and Human Rights: actions and success stories in the framework of the 2030 Agenda«, which was presented on December in a ceremony inaugurated by Reyes Maroto, Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism of Spain.

In addition, the meeting brought together representatives of several organizations and experts in the field such as Dante Pesce, member of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights and Elisabeth Resch, Manager, Human Rights & Supply Chain Sustainability at UN Global Compact.

Important advances and business challenges

The publication includes important advances by the private sector in this area, both globally and nationally. Thus, according to data from the United Nations Global Compact, around 91% of the companies that have joined the initiative have policies or practices in the area of human rights, and 46% carry out training for employees on the subject. However, only 23% carry out human rights risk assessments.

In Spain, the trend is similar. The Spanish Network of the Global Compact concludes that 82% of Spanish companies in the local network currently have human rights policies or practices in place, a figure which, in the case of SMEs, stands at 62%. The study justifies this difference by stating that 46% of SMEs worldwide have problems implementing processes to respect human rights due to a lack of resources and 36% due to a lack of knowledge on the subject. On the other hand, only 7% of Spanish entities evaluate their impact on human rights.

In this regard, the figures are more positive in IBEX 35 companies, since 43% of the entities in the stock market index claim to be conducting human rights impact assessments and, of these, 29% do so through a due diligence process in accordance with the guidelines set out in the guiding principles.

In addition, the study by the Spanish Network goes further and compiles 15 success stories of Spanish companies that have been able to integrate actions to ensure respect for human rights in their activities into their business strategies. Through the testimony of their spokespersons, these best practices serve as an example for other institutions to move from theory to action.

The analysis is also carried out at the government level, highlighting that of the 193 countries that are part of the United Nations, only 22 have a National Plan on Business and Human Rights. Among them is Spain, which approved in June 2017 the government’s National Plan on Business and Human Rights, which is expected to be updated in 2020.