Businesses around the world are beginning to integrate corporate social responsibility (CSR) models into their own workplaces. From grocery stores like Sainsbury's, whose Active Kids programme inspires kids to eat healthy foods and exercise, to professional services firms like PwC, which promotes transparency in NGOs and private companies, all kinds of businesses are making efforts to become more socially responsible. But are all of these efforts created equal?
The Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB), scheduled to be released in November 2016, is the first official attempt to rank large global businesses by their human rights performances. This benchmark is a major step toward helping both the general public and businesses better understand international CSR efforts.
Richard Howett, MEP, European Parliament Spokesperson in Corporate Social Responsibility, highlighted the importance of the benchmark when he said:
"The Corporate Human Rights Benchmark is at the forefront of encouraging our largest companies to demonstrate the leadership in human rights that the global market needs. CEO's have been clear that a human rights benchmark is one of the most powerful tools to change corporate policy and practice by using market mechanisms to generate 'a race to the top'."
Although it will eventually be expanded to include 500 global businesses from various sectors, the first annual CHRB will evaluate the human rights performances of 100 businesses from the apparel, agricultural, and extractive industries. According to the CHRB Pilot Methodology 2016, the evaluation process and guidelines were crafted by an international team of "representatives from over 400 companies, governments, civil society organisations, investors, academics and legal experts."
Despite the CHRB's good intentions, some organisations have expressed concerns regarding the benchmark's accuracy and effectiveness. For example, in a letter addressed to the CHRB, the UN Global Compact Network UK questioned whether a comparison of businesses from different industry sectors would be as useful as a comparison of businesses within the same sector.
The Corporate Human Rights Benchmark, like every ranking system, may have some setbacks. Yet it is also an invaluable step toward creating more socially responsible businesses around the world.