Acorn Ideas

Issue No. 42, February 2016

Meeting expectations in human rights reporting – a delicate balance

Initiatives to protect human rights are increasingly important for companies operating internationally, particularly for those within the extractive industry. While "hard laws” (e.g., UN International Bill of Human Rights and Universal Declaration of Human Rights) have been ratified by many countries, international expectations or “soft laws”, (e.g., UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights) are also increasingly viewed as measures and standards of good practice. Companies perceived to be deviating from or infringing on these laws or standards may face project delays, increased legal fees, loss of opportunities, and reduction in share price, among other impacts.

Since the broad-based consensus on the “protect, respect, remedy framework” in the UN Guiding Principles, additional expectations further clarifying and affirming these responsibilities have begun to emerge. For example (although still in draft form), the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB)1 is a new human rights reporting and communication benchmark set to pilot in the second half of 2016.

The objective of the CHRB is to enhance human rights transparency and performance by encouraging more publicly-available information on a company’s human rights practices. This benchmark will publicly rank the top 500 globally-listed companies in the Extractive, Apparel, and Agriculture sectors (initially starting with the top 100 globally-listed companies). Unlike some other initiatives in which companies choose to assess their human rights reporting practices, companies will not opt in to be assessed; they will be selected by CHRB and results will be made public.

The CHRB is split into five sections:

Within each of these sections are a series of key performance indicators (KPIs) that, if met, intend to promote more public reporting and communication on human rights issues, activities, and corrective actions (when infringements have been identified).

Although the CHRB KPIs are still in draft form,2 companies are beginning to assess their alignment with these indicators in order to understand how they might score against the CHRB criteria. While some of the KPIs may be challenging, the results of these proactive assessments will help to validate areas where the company is meeting or exceeding good international industry practice, and will also provide early warning on potential areas for improvement.

Acorn International LLC delivers social and environmental risk management consulting services to the extractive industries and investors worldwide. We work with local partners in over 80 countries worldwide. Use of these local specialists is paramount, particularly in developing countries, where information is often scarce, second-hand, and unreliable. We look forward to engaging in continuous improvement for the industry and building capacity with our partners.


1 Institute for Human Rights and Business. (2015). Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB). Available at:

2 Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB). (2015). Draft List of Indicators for Public Consultation. Available at:

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Issue 40 -A Multi-Stakeholder Partnership in Ghana: Marine and Fisheries Management
Issue 39 -The Colombian Social Responsibility Framework: An Evolving Model
Issue 38 -Social Network
Issue 37 -A Community Look-back on Ebola
Issue 36 -Ghana and the Voluntary Principles: Implementing the Human Rights Protection Framework
Issue 35 -Inundation
Issue 34 -Colombia: Local Hiring Requirement for O&G Industry
Issue 33 -Mature and Frontier Mining Geographies: Where does Greater Risk (and Reward) Reside?
Issue 32 -Local Content in Mining: Increasing Expectations and Potential Solutions
Issue 31 -Fast Money Beware: Non-Technical Risk Due Diligence
Issue 30 -Social and Environmental Performance - Considerations for Difficult Commodity Price Environments
Issue 29 -A Window into the Opposing View - Stakeholder Concerns about Oil and Gas in Mexico
Issue 28 -Why Non-Technical Risks Matter to the Mexican Apertura
Issue 27 -Equator Principles:Drivers of Sustainability in the Oil and Gas Industry?
Issue 26 -The Transparency Tightrope: Examining UNEP’s New Access to Information Policy
Issue 25 -July 2014: Bouston
Issue 24 - July 2014: Land Tenure and Property Rights - Where Legal Compliance May Not Be Enough
Issue 23 - May 2014: 3 Things I Learned in Mexico - Non-technical Risks in the Oil Industry
Issue 22 - April 2014: Capacity Building on Stakeholder Engagement
Issue 21 - March 2014: Above-ground Facilities and Stakeholder Engagement: Deploying the 'CAC'
Issue 20 - March 2014: A Starting Point for Shared Equity
Issue 19 - March 2014: What It Takes to Run a Great Consulting Firm
Issue 18 - February 2014: Considering Human Rights - Trends and Lessons in Oil and Gas Impact Assessments
Issue 17 - June 2013: Managing Environmental Health in International Development Projects
Issue 16 - January 2013: Integrating Environmental and Social Performance throughout the Project Lifecycle
Issue 15 - January 2013: The State of Shale Play in 2013
Issue 14 - August 2012: Building Environmental and Social Governance in Host Countries
Issue 13 - May 2012: Human Rights and Business: A New Era
Issue 12 - February 2012: Extractive Industries Confront Pressure for Greater Transparency
Issue 11 - January 2012: Key Updates to the IFC Sustainability Policy and Performance Standards
Issue 10 - June 2011: Oil & Gas and NGOs: New Rules of Engagement?
Issue 9 - February 2010: Annual Study of Sustainable Development Priorities
Issue 8 - January 2009: Annual Study of Sustainable Development Priorities
Issue 7 - May 2008: Top Ten Lessons Learned About Health Impact Assessment
Issue 6 - January 2008: Annual Study of Sustainable Development Priorities
Issue 5 - September 2007: Results of web forum with our International Partners
Issue 4 - January 2007: Annual Study of Sustainable Development Priorities
Issue 3 - May 2006: Suggestions and tips for safe international travel
Issue 2 - January 2006: Annual Study of Sustainable Development Priorities
Issue 1 - November 2005: The Top 10 “unspoken" criteria for determining the success of EIAs


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