Başak Bağlayan is a post-doctoral researcher at University of Luxembourg's faculty of law, economic and finance
A new Luxembourg national pact will encourage businesses to pledge their commitment to human rights across their organisation and value chain.
The announcement was made by goodwill ambassador for human rights Marc Bichler (foreign ministry) and Jean-Paul Olinger, head of the UEL and INDR, during a Tuesday conference organised by the aforementioned bodies and the economy ministry.
The business case
Companies wanting to demonstrate they are respecting human rights will face costs linked to compliance, infrastructure, and more. The good news? There’s an economic case justifying those costs.
These were a few of the key takeaways explained by Başak Bağlayan, a post-doctoral researcher in fundamental rights at the University of Luxembourg, during the conference. “The underlying argument with the workforce is that if a company respects human rights internally and externally, they can profit from a more loyal, more engaged and more productive workforce,” she explained.
There is an “expanding web of liability” when it comes to cross-border litigation in the domain of human rights--unsurprising in the US, perhaps, but something that is occurring more frequently now in Europe as well, says Bağlayan. The risk of litigation or settlement is further compounded by bad publicity which can occur as a result, not to mention stock performance.
Moreover, Bağlayan is convinced the future landscape will be defined not only by the scrutinisation of millennials, but also consumer and market trends, not to mention the regulatory environment.
“But arguably the most important instrument is the UN guided principles on human rights,” she adds, or UNGP, which is the first comprehensive guide at the international level to provide guidance for companies on reporting their respect of human rights.
At the national level, the foreign affairs ministry has already been hard at work developing the national action plan to implement the UNGP at the level of local businesses and, as Bichler explained, the working group behind its creation even included an annex in which the participants wanted to go further but could not reach a consensus at the time, “proof of the tolerance and mutual respect” of those implicated, Bichler added.
As Tom Theves of the economy ministry also explained, the Luxembourg National Contact Point also exists for the implementation of OECD guidelines for multinational entreprises--something that could prove particularly useful for a company wanting to adhere to human rights principles but may be operating in countries outside of Luxembourg or Europe, where practices may vary widely.
Local companies can commit to human rights through the newly-launched pact, which will be offered to businesses on a voluntary-basis. As part of this the INDR and the House of Training will launch a range of training courses--on human rights, due diligence and more.
More information will be forthcoming, but companies hoping to get a headstart can reach out to UEL or INDR for more information.