Berthold Beitz Research Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs
The United Nations Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) in June 2011. To date, they constitute the only official guidance the Council and its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights, have issued for states and business enterprises on their respective obligations in relation to business and human rights. And it was the first time that either body had “endorsed” a normative text on any subject that governments did not negotiate themselves. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, describes the UNGPs as “the global authoritative standard, providing a blueprint for the steps all states and businesses should take to uphold human rights.” According to Arvind Ganesan, who directs business and human rights at Human Rights Watch, as recently as the late 1990s “there was no recognition that companies had human rights responsibilities.” Needless to say, many factors contributed to this shift, particularly escalating pressure from civil society and adversely affected populations. But in terms of putting a global standard in place, The Economist Intelligence Unit has judged Council endorsement of the UNGPs to be the “watershed event.”
Ruggie, John Gerard. "The Social Construction of the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights." HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP17-030, June 12, 2017.