Business and Human Rights Requirements Are on the Rise in 2023 Rachel Alpert, Karam Jardeneh, Aleksandra Ryshina

As 2,500 international stakeholders from national governments, international organizations, businesses, trade unions, civil society, lawyers, local communities, and academia gathered at the 11th United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights (UNBHR Forum) last year, one message was clear: Business and human rights expectations and obligations are on the rise. As 2023 kicks off, these ideals, based on the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), are increasingly being integrated into nonbinding local business expectations as well as binding international, national, and regional laws. 

The UNGPs are grounded in the recognition that businesses “as specialized organs of society performing specialized functions” have a responsibility to respect human rights. As is standard for international legal obligations, states have a responsibility to protect the human rights of those within their jurisdictions. As the UNGPs make clear, such responsibility includes taking steps to prevent, investigate, punish, and redress human rights abuses by businesses. In a departure from other international legal norms, which apply predominantly to states, the UNGPs extend the duty to respect human rights to businesses themselves. 

Acknowledging the unique role of businesses in the promotion of human rights, the U.N. Human Rights Council set up the UNBHR Forum to provide a multistakeholder platform that involves participants from around the world, including businesses. This forum is the world’s largest yearly gathering on business and human rights, and its discussions provide insights into current issues at the intersection of these sectors as well as the trajectory of the progress being made in this issue area.

The impact and reach of the UNGPs has proliferated since their introduction in 2011, although there is still much to be done to implement the principles. Three areas in particular featured prominently in last year’s forum: (a) the accelerated implementation of the UNGPs through international, national, and regional actions; (b) the link between human rights and the environment; and (c) the importance of considered business decision-making in conflict situations. Each of these themes highlighted the importance of business involvement in the protection of human rights in distinct ways and provides insights into the key areas …


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