This article, sent by Ciara Maher, student at DCU in Dublin, Ireland, is part of our Student Writing contest about Business and Human Rights. You can know more about this contest here.
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Companies are designed to build and grow. It is ironic however that often as a company may thrive and succeed it may also neglect to incorporate the importance of human rights into its core strategy. Nowadays companies are global, and impacts of such neglect are indeed also on a global scale. Consequently, we face crises of pollution, corruption, and inequality internationally. When human rights are understood fully and we ascertain a certain level of education within our workforces, we can reap the rewards of better infrastructure, development, and the establishment of more positive relationships between businesses and communities, resulting in higher profits long-term.
As figures become the priorities of managers and executives, the importance of understanding and respecting the people who create there figures can be ignored or taken for granted. This is the entire problem. What makes a company are its people. These are the people who will generate the potential success of a company. They are not simply “hands” of a company. They are the brains and opinions, too. Of course the finished value of goods and services are of crucial importance to growth and stability, but so too are the employees who cultivate the ideas behind these entities. Every single worker must be acknowledged and appreciated within an organisation as part of this, from the very bottom level right through to the top. In the spirit of the European Year for Development, the time is now to implement better policies on both local and national levels to ensure better integration of human rights into business strategies. Germany is currently creating a national action plan to incorporate human rights into the strategies of all companies. This is a fantastic step forward and should be considered by other European nations. On a national scale, such a protocol would make a tremendously positive impact to workers, and creates a better business environment for all. As Heiko Schwiderowski points out below, this action plan creates an “opportunity, not a burden”.
Furthermore, the philosophy of “It’s not where you get, but how you get there” is of great relevance to a company’s achievements. It is not only the end of year figures and statistics that will prove the success of a company. The day-to-day life of every single employee within the workforce makes a huge impact. Workers should feel understood on a personal level by managers, and all managers must aim to incorporate empathy into their attitudes. As long as understanding and compassion exist in the behaviour of all workers within a company, it will be easy to abide by fundamental human rights.
Once there are positive relationships between each worker with another, between each worker and the community, and between the business itself and the wider community, and within each relationship a comprehension of the meaning of human rights is understood and respected, we will have achieved an incorporation of human rights sufficiently. Simply engaging in corporate responsibility projects is not nearly enough for the modern company. Each must act in a proactive manner, rather than a reactive manner, to all tasks and strategies it will implement, keeping its commitment to upholding a high standard of ethical behaviour throughout. The below infographic explains a procedure for such a proactive strategy, which essentially has no finishing point. The process of reviewing current performances, taking action, planning improvements, and implementing remedies must be a continuous cycle to ensure that rights are kept at the core of all strategies to achieve success, financially, socially, and environmentally.
It is crucial that governments employ a state agency to monitor and review business strategies to ensure that no neglect or abuses are occurring, to workers, the local environment, or the global community. The courts must also have a procedure in place to ensure that any cases of such neglect are investigated thoroughly, with all involved in any abuse to face sanction for such behaviour. Not nearly enough if being done at present to rectify these issues within companies. This fault is due to lack of knowledge more so than ignorance. Hence, we can go a long way to improve on this. With further protocols, EU policies, and government regulations, we can hopefully achieve one day a unanimously sustainable corporate environment world-wide. We have a long way to go, but we can continue to build on the first steps taken within Europe.
Those working in business, or indeed any area, must take some time to reflect on what “human rights” actually mean. A good starting point would be to study the International Bill of Human Rights. This may provide some inspiration to allow us to set our targets for how much further we aim to progress in terms of human rights fulfilment, in order to create sustainable development within our companies going forward into the mid-21st century.