Respecting human rights must not be voluntary - S Group
Respecting human rights must not be voluntary

Respecting human rights must not be voluntary

The United Nations published its Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP) in 2011. They established a framework for how companies must take their operations’ impact on human rights into account and strive to prevent and remedy any adverse impacts – regardless of the size and industry of the business.


Next year, ten years will have passed since the principles were made public. Some companies have adopted them as their guidelines and included the respect for human rights, the identification of risks and prevention measures in their processes. However, the principles based on voluntary action have not reached every company.

Every company has an impact on human rights, and the principles therefore concern them all. Impacts occur at home and abroad, and they can be either direct or indirect. No company can avoid the need to observe the principles.

In global trade, supply chains are often long and complex. To ensure that human rights are protected everywhere, every operator in the chain should commit themselves to respecting human rights and monitoring their realisation in practice. For this, shared rules are needed – legislation that applies to all companies. Respecting human rights must not be voluntary.

The evaluation of human rights impacts and the monitoring of their realisation cannot be performed on behalf of another party in short value chains, and much less in long ones. Nor is it fair to assume that the realisation of human rights is only the responsibility of some companies. It is important that everyone participates.

This is embedded in the core idea of the UNGP: every company, regardless of their size and industry, must identify the adverse impacts of its operations and strive to prevent them. The measures depend on the risks: if the risks are minor, the measures do not need to be massive, either. This idea simply needs to be implemented more widely.

At S Group, we have worked for a long time to ensure the realisation of human rights and responsible procurement operations, and we believe that legislation pertaining to human rights would support us in our work. For the legislation to be equal for everyone and have a genuine impact on the realisation of human rights, it should be decreed at the EU level and apply to everyone. After all, companies operate in the international market as well.

The task of creating EU-level legislation is not easy, but it is necessary. We are happy to participate in this discussion and bring forward the views of companies and our customers.

Nina Elomaa, Senior Vice President, Sustainability & Sanni Martikainen, Corporate Responsibility Manager, SOK Responsibility

Photos: SOK

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