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So much attention has been paid in 2023 to climate risk, the voluntary offset markets, plastics and whether ESG should be renamed that one could almost think all other ESG/sustainability issues have gone away, been solved or are no longer important to business. But that is far from the truth. In my opinion, no individual topic has fallen further off the radar screen than human rights in supply chains. As the world looks to electrification and decarbonization, inadequate attention is paid to human rights of those that mine minerals needed for electrification, have their rights/cultures impacted by carbon asset development and toil in poor workplace conditions to manufacture consumer goods.

I was reminded of this a few days ago when Intel published a December 2023 update to their Global Human Rights Principles and Approach. The document is worth reading. It is relatively short but covers a lot of ground. One element that stuck out to me is their statement on Human Rights Due Diligence (HRDD):

“We conduct human rights due diligence in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, to identify, assess, prevent, and mitigate adverse human rights impacts associated with our operations, supply chain, and business relationships, and at customer or product level. We recognize that our commitment to respect human rights is a continuous process that will require us to regularly engage with all stakeholders to whom we need to listen and from whom we need to learn. We meet with internal and external stakeholders and experts to inform and evolve our human rights policies and oversight processes. We recognize that some people may be at greater risk of adverse human rights impacts due to their vulnerability or marginalization, such as, women, children, persons with disabilities, migrant workers, and human rights defenders.”

What caught my eye is their candor and humility in needing to learn more and recognizing differing “vulnerability or marginalization” of people. These reflect a deep understanding of the mind-bending complexity of human rights in a global economy. Companies that make statements indicating they have the answer, solved their HRDD problems or stop at hiring social auditors are either not taking the matter seriously, don’t understand it well enough or are greenwashing. Companies that aren’t candid about their HRDD status and shortcomings face potential regulatory and litigation risks – especially as EU’s CS3D take shape. Take a look at your company’s public statements/commitments concerning human rights in your supply chain – Intel’s approach and statement may provide inspiration for your own update.

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Photo credit: wolterke –

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile