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Committing to Human Rights in Australia's Corporate Sector

Author(s): Sally Wheeler

This paper draws on data collected from the ASX 50 with a focus on policy commitment to human rights. As the UNGP makes clear a visible and accessible policy commitment is the most basic form of recognition that corporations should afford to human rights. The paper takes the position that this policy commitment offers corporations a chance to declare a positive relationship with human rights. Therefore the presence or not of a policy statement, and the form that the statement takes, tells us much about the relationship between the corporate sector and human rights. The data reveals that there is generally a low compliance with the policy commitment requirement. The most significant factor amongst a range of variables examined for predicting whether compliance will occur or not is membership of human rights engaged Business and Industry Non-Governmental Organisations (BINGOs). We might expect a rather stronger public commitment to human rights reflecting the position taken by Australian corporations on other ESG standards. The paper suggests that the absence of human rights discourse as a political and cultural artifact at the domestic nation state level is a possible explanation for this.

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Research theme: Law and Technology

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