Section 1.0

Human Right Policy

Section  1.1

What are human rights policy statements?

One of the main elements of human rights due diligence is developing a policy statement. Making a policy statement is more than writing a document on paper. The process that produces a policy statement usually involves planning and consultation.

Human rights policy statements must indicate:

  1. Expressing a commitment to respect human rights clearly to internal and external stakeholders;
  2. Instructions and guidelines to those expected to implement this policy.

Main companies divisions to be involved in the process

CSR/sustainability: Can bring expertise on human rights and on the company’s broader sustainability commitments

Business operations: Help ensure relevance as well as acceptance and implementation of the policy

Legal, internal audit, compliance: Review of policy in light of company’s legal obligations and verification of compliance once adopted

Senior management: Support and formal approval of policies

Government and investor relations: Consultation with specific stakeholders that they have responsibility for engaging with and communication of policy

Human resources: Relationship to existing policies on own workforce

Communications: To help ensure effective translation into business language within the company as well as supporting external communication once adopted

Section  1.2

Involving Senior Management

The ‘tone at the top’ set by senior management is critical to ensuring the business takes respect for human rights seriously. A statement of policy can be an important tool in this regard. So the process of developing the policy statement needs to be supported by senior management from the start. Having a senior management champion can help kick-start internal conversations and signal the importance of the process.

Based on the 2018 UN Global Compact Progress Report, senior management is the main catalyst in driving human rights policies. Apparently, 68% of human rights policies were initiated, developed and evaluated by CEOs, as shown in the figure below:

Sumber: UN Global Compact Progress Report 2018

Section 1.3

Evaluating existing commitments and policies

Are there existing companies policies regarding human rights?

It is important to identify existing company policies on human rights. There are many companies that have referred to Human Rights in their business principles, vision and mission or have signed Global Compact principles. Many companies only need to make additional guidance rather than making complete changes.


Has the company policy touched human rights implicityly?

Companies may have implicitly touched human rights, such as existing policies regarding health and safety, diversity and inclusiveness, policies on product safety, and public relations. Such policies can then be incorporated into human rights policy statements.

Learning from practices

While a policy statement is a critical component of implementing the responsibility to respect, immediately sitting down to write a formal policy may not always be the best starting point. Sometimes, beginning by considering a particular human rights issue that has arisen in connection with the business (for example, the right to water, forced labour), or mapping a company’s salient human rights issues, can help senior management and other colleagues see how the company’s activities are connected to human rights.

Section  1.4

Identifying the company’s salient human rights issues

While the Guiding Principles do not prescribe any particular form for a policy commitment, the more tailored it is to the company’s reality, the more likely it is to be effective in practice. An important way to tailor a commitment is by ensuring that it addresses the leading human rights risks that the company might be involved with across its operations. For example, an ICT company would probably want to include a specific focus on the rights to privacy and freedom of expression, while a factory that dyes cloth would consider a range of impacts on its own workforce but also human rights impacts on local communities arising from environmental aspects of its operations, such as excessive water use or discharge of pollutants.

Section 1.5

Involving internal and external stakeholders in the process

Internal engagement is a critical opportunity to translate the potentially abstract concept of human rights into ‘business speak’ so that everyone inside the company can understand its relevance to their work. It is particularly important to engage those staff who will be expected to implement the policy. This can include managers, specialised or functional staff and those who own key business relationships or activities that can be connected to human rights risks. Engaging them can improve not only the content of the policy, but can also help generate greater buy-in once it is formally adopted.


In thinking about external stakeholders to engage in the process, it helps to consider who has insight into the company’s overall activities and impacts, as well as what is likely to be effective in addressing the company’s salient human rights issues. If a policy is being developed for a particular site or facility and its implementation will directly concern local communities, it will be important to consult directly with local stakeholders and their representatives.

Section 1.6

Developing the language of the statement

There are several level of human rights policies that can be adopted by companies:

High-level reference to human rights

A company may include a reference to human rights in its high-level values or mission statement, often focused on an expression of respect for all internationally recognized human rights, sometimes in the form of a quote from the company’s CEO or senior leadership.


Policy statement on human rights

A policy statement should provide clarity to staff and external stakeholders about what the company expects in regard to human rights. This means it should be tailored to the company’s particular circumstances, industry and human rights risks. The policy will need to be updated over time to include lessons learnt and reflect new insights into the company’s human rights challenges.

❖ Examples of operational guidance for specific company functions

  • information technology and human resources manusia → Privacy and data protection
  • Security → Use of force in security operations
  • Community Relations → Guidance on stakeholder engagement with a human rights lens
  • Human Resources Non-discrimination in recruitment
  • Procurement → Responsible sourcing
  • Logistics → Pencegahan HIV/AIDS (logistics/staff responsible for drivers of company vehicles in countries with a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS and known visits by drivers to sex workers)

Operational guidance based on territory

Operational guidance on human rights issues is important in areas with special needs, such as areas with a history of conflict.

Section 1.7

Communicating the policy

After approval, the policy should be clearly communicated to relevant staff and external business partners and stakeholders – both those who are expected to implement it (for example, the company’s contractors and suppliers) and those who have a direct interest in its implementation (for example, potentially affected communities, investors, consumers and civil society organisations).

The company will need to consider what is most effective in terms of dissemination given the audiences it is intended for. See chaoter on Communicating and Showing Progress. 

Section 1.8

Common pitfalls to avoid

Mengabaikan hak-hak tertentu tanpa analisis

Basing statements of responsibility on influence rather than impact

The Guiding Principles define a company’s responsibility based on how a company can be involved with negative human rights impacts, including through its business relationships. A company’s responsibility does not depend on its influence (or leverage). Therefore, a policy statement should be clear that a company does not have less responsibility where it has less influence; it may indeed be harder to address the situation, but the scope of the company’s responsibility does not change.

Ignoring certain rights without analysis

Sometimes, companies may reject certain rights as irrelevant to their business without conducting a human rights risk mapping, or consulting with appropriate experts. Wherever a company focuses on particular rights in a policy statement, it should be able to explain why it has chosen this focus and what process led to it, in line with the process of identifying ‘salient human rights issues’. See Human Rights Impact Assessment Chapter.

Not addressing conflicting standards

Company staff will look to the policy or operational guidance when they find themselves confronted with dilemmas. Such dilemmas often involve conflicts between local standards and international or company standards. It is, therefore, important that the policy acknowledge that such situations may arise and give general guidance on what to do in order for staff to feel that the policy speaks to the real challenges they face.


For example, there are cases where female employees in the company refuse to get promoted because they do not want to add to the burden of responsibility as a mother or wife in the family. On the other hand, HRD is prohibited from discriminating even though in reality male employees are more likely to accept promotions. The difference between implementation in the field and the company’s non-discriminatory ideal values ​​must be discussed so that the HRD division can implement policy guidelines. Recognition of conflicts between norms also makes companies able to implement solutions to this gap.


Therefore, it is important that policies recognize that conflicts between standards may occur and provide general guidance on what should be done so that employees feel that the policy speaks to the real challenges they face.

Section 1.9

Some suggestions for SME

Draw on codes from industry or multi-stakeholder initiatives

Instead of developing their own policy from scratch, SMEs can look to industry or multi-stakeholder initiatives that have a code of conduct with human rights provisions. For example, organisations like the Ethical Trading Initiative or the Fair Labor Association have their own codes of conduct regarding respect for the labour rights of supply chain workers that companies subscribe to upon becoming members. An SME does not have to become a member; the codes are typically available online and can be adapted to the company’s unique circumstances.


Integrate human rights into existing policies

 Smaller companies often have a document that covers core company rules or a code of conduct; human rights could be included in such a document rather than in a stand-alone policy. For some SMEs, this need be no more than a paragraph, provided the commitment is communicated to those who need to know about it.

Start by doing before developing a policy

For any company, it is important to make a formal commitment. But, for some SMEs in particular, it may make more sense to start by implementing human rights due diligence, while considering the development of a formal policy.

Organise stakeholder engagement through sector organisations

Many SMEs interact with stakeholders within sector initiatives for particular commodities or industries, rather than setting up their own initiatives.


Chapter 2 : Embedding human right