Business and Human Rights

Cividep believes that corporations should take responsibility for the negative impact of their activities, and should be accountable for human rights and environmental violations in their supply chains. With the erosion of the state and the privatization of economic and welfare functions, international consensus on the responsibility of transnational companies towards their supply chains has grown.

Business and human rights, and corporate accountability can be distinguished from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which does not articulate in terms of rights. CSR driven measures have not adequately addressed negative impacts of business activities. Business and human rights entails respecting human rights through responsible and accountable conduct on the part of businesses in relation to workers, suppliers, consumers, the environment, communities and the government of the country where production is carried out.

The various international instruments on business and human rights include the ILO Core Conventions, the International Declaration of Human Rights, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and the UN Guiding Principles (UNGPs) on Business and Human Rights. The UNGPs are built on the “Protect, Respect, Remedy” framework i.e.

  • State’s duty to protect human rights
  • Corporate responsibility to respect human rights
  • Greater access to remedy for victims of business-related abuse

In addition, the UN HRC has established an open-ended intergovernmental working group (OEIGWG) to negotiate an international legally binding treaty for holding TNCs and other business enterprises accountable for human rights violations. The treaty process is on-going and is expected to submit a draft treaty proposal in 2017.


Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Violence against women at Work (2017)

As part of HRGM project, Cividep brought together a group of experts (CSOs, legal practitioners, activists, union members etc.) in December 2016 to identify the present status of the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act 2013, roadblocks for its implementation and the steps to be taken for effective enforcement and monitoring of the Act, especially in the garment industry.

With support from Fair Wear Foundation (FWF), Cividep held a second round of consultation in February 2017 on the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, 2013. This round of meeting saw representatives from state institutions – Labour Department, State Women’s Commission, Department of Women and Child Development, the State Legal Services Authority, and the Expert Committee on Preventing Sexual Violence against Women and Children – clarifying their roles and responsibilities in stricter implementation of the SH Act.

Human Rights and Grievance Mechanism: Access to Remedy (2016 – ongoing)

Access to Justice in the Garment Sector in South India – In partnership with the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), Cividep is undertaking the HRGM project to study issues concerning access to remedy for garment works in Bangalore. The project seeks to document grievances received by trade unions from garment workers and evaluate the effectiveness of judicial and non-judicial grievance mechanisms.

As part of the HRGM project, Cividep held a consultation meeting in September 2016 to discuss the possibilities of establishing an international legally binding treaty to regulate the activities of transnational and domestic corporations, and protect human rights including labour rights, environmental rights and the rights of indigenous people. The consultation brought together CSOs in India to discuss the role and content of the proposed binding treaty, and explore opportunities to establish a business and human rights framework in India.

OECD Guidelines and Access to Remedy (2012)

Cividep organised a workshop for CSOs working in the extractive sector on the revised OECD Guidelines. The workshop provided assistance on how to use the dispute resolution mechanism under the OECD guidelines to address corporate misconduct.

UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in Company Research and Advocacy (2012)

Cividep, in partnership with the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) and Centre for Human Rights and Environment (CEDHA), developed a guide to provide concrete support, guidance and a uniform reference framework for CSOs in using the UNGPs. The guide provides a method for CSOs to use the GPs in company research and advocacy, and helps them to hold companies accountable for their corporate responsibility to respect human rights. The guide is also available in Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese and French.