Monday, March 30, 2015


So much is happening in the world of business that few have time to think about, let alone address any human rights issues.Most organisations take note of and act on human rights issues only if they (or their supply chain arrangements) are directly affected.

Shell South Africa once owned prime land for a service station development in the notorious District 6, Cape Town. Then Chairman Ken Geeling did the right thing and took the decision (unpopular internally) to sell off the land and not proceed with any development - long before any public pressure arose.

The subject is huge, some of the areas being working conditions, epidemics, child labour, discrimination in many guises, rights to land, vote, education, water, privacy, freedom of religious practice ..... and policy options range from acknowledge/comply - to respect - protect - improve/remedy - widely campaign

Most still work on the basis of keeping their nose clean, basing decisions on minimising damage to reputation, minimising the impact on spending or profits - seeing these as thresholds not opportunities. So they might when pressure builds, change a supplier, manufacturer, distributor. Very few contemplate withdrawing from a market, calling for sanctions, campaigning to rectify bad laws, putting their heads above the parapet.

Ultimately the driver for significant, leading action is based on courageous leadership based on sound virtues, heading up oranisations wanting to be not only the best in the world but also the best for the world. Firms who operate from a higher purpose perspective may embrace human rights issues - Proctor & Gamble have initiatives to provide communities with fresh drinking water, provide education for girls .....

(Photo of Malala Yousafzai)