Why are Human Rights Important?

Whilst governments remain responsible for promoting, protecting, and fulfilling human rights, respect   of those rights by business is increasingly being seen by more and more buyers, customers, investors, consumers, civil society actors and Governments as essential to securing long term business sustainability alongside environmental stewardship and good corporate governance. It is a large part of the “S” in ESG expectations. 

Human Rights respect is articulated in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). It is about treating people with dignity and respect. Treating others as you would wish to be treated yourself. Its about doing no harm to others and where harm occurs, putting it right. 

Human rights respect is a core part of “brand value” and a company’s “social license to operate”. Failures to respect human rights within a company’s own operations and supply chain will negatively impact business viability and consumer and customer trust. No company wants to be labelled an abuser of Human Rights. 

Globally, regulation has and is being developed to require businesses by law to know that those they are buying from in their supply chains are respecting human rights, including in New Zealand. If you, as a business, are not respecting human rights in your own operations and with your suppliers, then you will be seen as a reputational and commercial “risk” to your buyers to an extent that they may decide not to purchase from you. 

As an export-based economy, that human rights “risk” can quickly curtail or prevent access to overseas markets.  

Human rights respect is a way to embed corporate values in how you do business and to enhance your businesses reputation and brand with those that buy from you. It is being seen more and more by prospective employees as a reason to join your business and as an element in retaining your talent.  

There is a framework to help businesses of all sizes address respect for human rights. The UNGPs sets out what “respect” means, how to go about achieving it and what to do if you, or through your business relationships, have caused harm to someone. 


Tūhana Business and Human Rights is NZEE’s Human Rights Foundation Partner, to help members implement the UNGP framework in their operations and help identify and prioritize the risks they pose to people through their own business operations and supply chain and develop responses that look to prevent, mitigate, or remedy human rights issues.