On the 10th of December will be the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration, such a beautiful construct, that mobilised people from all continents to design universal rights, has remained wonderfully updated even with all the changes in the world. However, these universal rights are challenged every day by people that forego our inherent right to dignity and promote inequality, devise and discrimination.
When speaking of human rights, and especially their defence, it is common to leave companies behind. State obligations are always the first to be mentioned, side by side with all the valuable efforts of human rights’ NGOs that work to promote those rights. Companies come to mind when speaking of human rights violations and how difficult it is to be accountable. Or when there is an ethical breech or a flagrant disrespect of human rights, committed by someone in a leadership position.
But companies can and should be at the forefront of human rights defence. They can advocate for the most vulnerable, be bastions of protection and help confer human dignity to all those that they employ. They can uphold the highest standards of labour rights. They can promote diversity and happiness. They can guarantee that human rights are not an empty construct.
Companies do have an ethical obligation towards their communities. Looking back at the past 70 years, it is amazing to see how companies have evolved. There are so many hybrids, new formats, social businesses, ethical companies, that we have the good fortune to be able to choose so many different ways to promote positive social impact. So much so, that thousands of companies have joined a movement that certifies how much their care for human rights and their communities - the B Corp movement.
Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has withstood the test of time, the times we live in today are too challenged to leave such important actors out of the equation. Human rights violations are committed daily by State and non-state actors. Unfortunately, also by companies. Only through active cooperation within all sectors can we deconstruct hate narratives and discrimination practices.
I know we shouldn’t have favourites, but in what regards the UDHR I can’t resist to pick Article 1 - All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.- maybe because if we could just fulfil this one, the world would be infinitely better.
Stone Soup founding partner