European Commission - Enterprise and Industry

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Business and human rights: new United Nations guidelines Arna fhoilsiú an : 17/06/2011, Nuashonrú is déanaí: 14/04/2014

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European Commission Vice-President Tajani has welcomed the approval of new United Nations guiding principles on business and human rights - setting out clear expectations of what governments and enterprises should do to ensure that human rights are not harmed by business activities.

European Commission Vice-President Tajani has welcomed the approval of new United Nations guiding principles on business and human rights.

The culmination of 6 years of work lead by Professor John Ruggie, UN Special Representative, the guiding principles set out clear expectations of what governments and enterprises should do to ensure that human rights are not harmed by business activities.

Vice President Tajani said: “I strongly welcome the approval of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.  Many European enterprises are world leaders when it comes to human rights and have played a constructive role in Professor Ruggie’s work.  The UN principles will be an important reference for the renewed policy on corporate social responsibility that we expect to adopt later this year.  We look forward to cooperating with enterprises, EU Member States, as well as other stakeholders and international partners, to implement the UN principles on business and human rights.”  

The European Commission has recently published two calls for tenders for technical advice to develop more detailed human rights guidance for companies based on the UN principles.  This guidance will be for small and medium-sized enterprises, and also for enterprises in 3 industrial sectors which will be identified next year.

In 2010 the European Commission published an analysis done by the University of Edinburgh of the existing legal framework for human rights applicable to EU enterprises when they operate outside the European Union.

The Business and Human Rights Centre, an independent provider of information in this field, lists 270 enterprises with explicit human rights policies, of which over half are European. 

The guiding principles endorsed by the UN cover three distinct but interrelated pillars: the state duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business, through appropriate policies, regulation and adjudication; the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, in essence meaning to act with due diligence to avoid infringing on the rights of others; and the need for greater access by victims to effective access to remedy, judicial and non-judicial.

For more information:

DG Enterprise business and human rights webpage

UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

Business and Human Rights Resource Centre – list of companies with human rights policies