Top companies ranked for human rights for the first time

Written by Rebecca O'Connor on 13th March 2017

BHP Billiton, Marks and Spencer and Rio Tinto top the first corporate rankings for human rights, according to a report published this morning.

Nestle, Adidas and Unilever were the next three highest scorers. The six companies were the only organisations to score more than 55 per cent on the new benchmark.

Corporate Human Rights Benchmark, a not-for-profit set up by investors and civil society groups, said there was a “small group of leaders pulling away from the rest” as it launched its first benchmark results to the public.

However the results highlighted poor human rights practice across the majority of firms. 63 of the 98 scored less than 30 per cent. The average score was 28.7 per cent.

Importantly, the benchmark does not assess environmental impact, so firms that do not have a strong environmental record, such as fossil fuels and mining companies, may still score favourably for human rights, presenting investors focused on both environmental and social factors with a challenge.

The benchmark is the product of two-years’ consultation with more than 400 companies and organisations, the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark is supported by 85 investors, accounting for $5.3 trillion in assets under management.

The Benchmark is led by investors and non-profit groups and focused on companies from three high-risk industries – agricultural products, apparel and extractives – but plans to grow year-on-year to cover the world’s 500 largest listed enterprises.

The benchmark is designed to create competition among top companies to improve their human rights scores by making them visible. The measurement themes look at companies’ policies, governance, processes, practices and transparency, as well as how they respond to serious allegations.

Mark Wilson, Group Chief Executive Officer of Aviva said: “Competition is a beautiful thing when it is used to do good. For the first time we have a public measure of companies’ human rights performance which will focus attention in the boardroom on their performance versus other companies and allow investors to ask the right questions. More transparency and a desire to improve in the rankings will spark a race to the top in corporate human rights.”

Vicky Dodman, Chief Executive of the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark, said: “This first Benchmark is a baseline. In the future, we want to see companies move up as they respond to increased public scrutiny and engagement from investors. Inaction runs a high reputational risk and low scoring companies should act decisively, learn from leading practices, and rapidly improve.”

The website says: “Business can create jobs and secure livelihoods, provide products and services, support community development and provide tax revenue for the state to invest in the well-being of its people.

Yet, without a sound commitment to human rights and implementation through due diligence, jobs can be precarious with poverty wages, indigenous peoples can be dispossessed of their ancestral lands and individuals can be subjected to modern day slavery, amongst a range of other potential impacts.”

Want to know what your pension, ISA or other investments are invested in? Ask your financial adviser or fund manager to disclose the full list of companies, or let us do the digging for you. Email Becky with details of your investments and we’ll find out.