Council of Europe has recently published a report on human rights and business. It was prepared by rapporteur Mr Holger Haibach. Here is the summary:
With globalisation, large multinational companies have faced charges that they are violating human rights, especially in developing countries: child labour in the textile industry, environmental disasters caused by the oil industry, or breaches of the right to privacy by telecommunication companies are all recent examples. Yet such alleged abuses often take place outside Europe, and bringing them before European courts is usually difficult.
Council of Europe member states should start by investing ethically, refusing to work with corporations associated with abuses, and insist that firms fully respect human rights standards when they carry out government contracts – especially if the work involves classic state functions which have been “privatised”, such as law enforcement or military activities. More generally, they should introduce laws to protect individuals from corporate abuses of human rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Committee of Ministers, for its part, could prepare studies – and eventually a recommendation to Europe’s governments – on corporate responsibility in the area of human rights. It could even set up a system for assessing the social responsibility of businesses, leading to a Council of Europe “label” for the best. In the meantime, the Council of Europe should co-operate with other international organisations already working in this field, and develop partnerships with the business community to promote its standards.