Human rights in business

India has ratified a significant number of International Human Rights Instruments, including, amongst many others, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966, the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women 1979 (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989. There do remain, however, domains in which India is yet to demonstrate equivalent commitments.

Whilst the State remains and must be the ultimate guarantor of human rights, there is a need to recognise and respond to substantial changes that have occurred within the Indian and the global economy over the past three decades. These changes have led to a situation in non-state actors are now playing an indisputably important role in the delivery of public goods and, therefore, in the assurance of the human rights of Indian citizens. Whilst the government must continue to lead, to enforce, to regulate and also provide services itself, it is not feasible to only rely on government to ensure that rights are respected. In this context, the role of business, and the need for human rights in business, is critical.

Encouragingly, India was part of a group of nations that supported the drafting of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which affirm the “Protect, Respect, Remedy” framework of the United Nations:

(a) States’ existing obligations to respect, protect and fulfil human rights and fundamental freedoms;

(b) The role of business enterprises as specialized organs of society performing specialized functions, required to comply with all applicable laws and to respect human rights;

(c) The need for rights and obligations to be matched to appropriate and effective remedies when breached

(United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, New York and Geneva 2011)

 

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Labour Rights

Labour Rights are a core subset of human rights, and an area in which India is yet to ratify a number of international commitments. PiC is committed to the preservation of labour rights for all who are engaged, including contract workers, apprentices and trainees.In 1999 the International Labour Organisation gave impetus to the concept of ‘decent work’, entailing work that is safe, sufficient, and supported by effective social protection. PIC also stands with the ILO in its assertion of the rights to freedom of association, collective bargaining, equal remuneration for work of equal value, and protection from forced labour and child labour.

(Article 23, United Nations Declaration of Human Rights)
(1)Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2)Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3)Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4)Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

(Article 24, United Nations Declaration of Human Rights) Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

 

Key projects
  • In the Gender Parity in Corporate Leadership in India (2012) project in collaboration with Oxfam India, gender disparity in the higher echelons of the corporate sector was studied in order to understand biases that disallow women career advancement opportunities.
  • Status of Affirmative Action in Listed Companies in India (2011) was a collaboration with Christian Aid focused on parameters such as governance, stakeholder engagement, reporting and disclosure, amongst others.
  • PiC was one of the core Drafting members of the Workplace Code of Conduct (2006) for the Bureau of Indian Standards. Along with other stakeholders, PiC collaborated to develop a certifiable Indian Standard on ‘Organisational Accountability’.
  • Ethical Screening of BSE Top 50 Corporates in India (2012) as per Oxfam Ethical Screening Guideline was done under the guidance of Oxfam India and involved an ethical assessment including governance practices and transparency in the organization, apart from various policies and practices followed by companies in relation to CSR, human rights, employees, health and safety.
  • Human Rights and Business: A Primer for Business in India (2009) was an introductory document for managers and leaders that familiarized them with the issues and basics of the Business and the Human Rights Agenda. It was a collaborative initiative of PiC, Business Leaders Initiatives on Human Rights and Global Compact Network India
  • International Consultation on Human Rights and Business (2008) funded by the Special Representative to Secretary General (SRSG) United Nations led to the creation of South Asia Forum on Responsible Business (SAFoRB) which focused on Human Rights in business, promoting ethical businesses through consultations.