Why procurement pros must undertake human rights due diligence

CPOs and their procurement teams will be familiar with keeping multiple plates spinning on their…...

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CPOs and their procurement teams will be familiar with keeping multiple plates spinning on their poles, from cost reduction to tail spend management and category management. However, a new report now urges organisations to include human rights due diligence in their supply chain management duties.

Collaborating with the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL) produced the report, entitled Making sense of managing human rights issues in supply chains. The study emphasises that, while human rights law is strengthening, businesses and other organisations must stay ahead of the game to ensure that buyers collaborate on their due diligence duties. This is to alleviate the burden on suppliers and to encourage the development of non-judicial processes of redress wherever abuse is found.

In an era of ever-more complex global supply chains, companies have a growing obligation to gain “a complete picture” of the real impact of their procurement operations on human rights, local communities and environments, according to Norman Rose Fulbright partner Milana Chamberlain.

She added: “Many companies are only just starting to explore the complexities of such supply chain human rights due diligence. The legal landscape is developing fast, with increasing focus on a company’s control over the human rights impacts of its supply chain.”

The report sets out a series of recommendations for businesses wishing to improve their human rights due diligence, beginning with the processes described in the UN’s “Guiding Principles on Human Rights” which includes an impact assessment of the company supply chain.

Additional recommendations include:

Building strong and substantive processes
Securing commitments to human rights issues at senior or board level
Establishing human rights as integral to the company’s commercial goals
Participating in industry-wide human rights initiatives
Exploring ways to move beyond the first tier

Naturally, traditional procurement duties in supply change management will remain crucial. But eradicating human rights abuses from that supply chain is about to become a priority component of the procurement professional’s role.

Nick Ford

Nick has over 30 years procurement experience in consulting, outsourcing and line roles within industry with international experience across many sectors and industries and led many procurement programs with blue chip organisations.

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