Mauricio Lazala, Deputy Director of the world’s largest NGO working exclusively on business and human rights issues, has seen an amazing take-up of human rights issues amongst multi-national corporations over the last 10 years, but the NGO still reports abuses on a daily basis. He spoke to HRAS about how seriously business is taking the issues and how the work of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre is helping.
HRAS: Mauricio, at a recent United Nations Human Rights forum in Geneva, you met with hundreds of representatives from business who were also attending. How have times changed?
In the last 10 years we have seen a very rapid increase in the uptake of human rights issues by companies around the world. Ten-fifteen years ago, no major corporations were talking the human rights talk or having human rights units within their organisation looking seriously at the issues.
Nowadays, there are many companies, most of them multi-nationals, but increasingly also medium and small companies, that have explicit human rights departments and policies.
We have around 350 companies listed on our website who have published human rights policies. That would have just been a dream 10 years ago.
HRAS: Yet, you say, we can look at the glass as being half full or half empty. How is the glass half empty?
If you were to ask someone from civil society who is looking closely, they will point to the fact that corporate abuses still occur on a daily basis around the world. There are still many companies that refuse to adopt a human rights policy, and there are still many companies that don’t know or don’t want to know about the United Nations Guiding Principles of Business and Human Rights which were unanimously adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011. So, it’s a mixed picture.
HRAS: What companies do the Guiding Principles apply to?