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WBA CHRB 2022: How can the ICT sector translate human rights commitments into action?

Corporate Human Rights Benchmark 2022 indicates more to be done in ICT sector supply chain.

On November 21st the World Benchmarking Alliance published its Corporate Human Rights Benchmark 2022. This assessed over 100 companies in 3 sectors, Food and Agriculture, Automotive and ICT. In ICT 43 companies were assessed, including many of techUK’s largest members. The CHRB methodology has been updated this year to focus more on performance over commitments.

The Key Findings from the report were as follows:

  1. Corporate respect for human rights has gained momentum
  2. Elevating human rights responsibilities to board and senior management level appears to be key for better performance
  3. Companies need to translate commitments to action
  4. Companies are taking a hands-off approach to human rights in their supply chain
  5. A high score on the Human Rights metric is correlated with a high score on the Just Climate Transition Assessment

Sectoral Analysis

It was noted by the WBA that the ICT sector companies analysed were still failing on a number of harms, including forced labour, long overtime for workers, prolonged exposure to toxic substances and unsafe working conditions.

Nearly two thirds of companies scored below 20% on the whole, with the ICT sector achieving an average score of 18.3%. ICT scored notably better, however, on supply chain requirements compared with companies in the other two sectors. It was concluded that ICT needs to do more to raise its score, particularly in relation to performance as commitments are already high.

Thematic Breakdown

Theme A – Governance and Policy

ICT scored low on this theme, with an average score of 20%. Most companies have unsatisfactory board-level accountability (60%).

Theme B – Embedding respect and human rights due diligence

Again, low scores, averaging 18% on human rights embedded in corporate culture. 40% of companies in ICT scored 0 on human rights due diligence.

Theme C – Remedies and grievance mechanism

Grievance process and remediation provided by the ICT sector was low, 23% on average. Most companies have a grievance mechanism, but non-adequately functioning. Adequacy is measured by: equitability, public accessibility and the clear explanation of procedures.

Theme D – Performance: Company human rights practices

ICT scored the highest of the 3 sectors here, with 61% of companies holding commitments against restrictions of worker mobility, and 42% of companies with commitments to respect the rights of workers to independently organise.

However, 80% of ICT companies scored 0 on living wage plans in country of operation, and over 95% of companies on living wage plans as it relates to their suppliers.

Theme E – Performance: Responses to serious allegations

Across sectors, 52% of companies assessed had at least one (1) serious allegation connected to them. There was a large gap between the percentage of companies which publicly acknowledged an allegation of harm (72%) and companies which resolved an allegation (14%). It’s worth mentioning that less than half of allegations related to a company’s own operations, with 55% in the supply chain.

The findings of the WBA’s 2022 CHRB report suggest that although the ICT sector is doing comparatively well on supply chain transparency commitments, all sectors are failing evenly when it comes to preventing harms and providing access to remedy. Board-level responsibility links to human rights performance should be an ambition of the sector going forward, based on the findings of this report. The WBA also calls for greater stakeholder engagement in all steps of human rights due diligence.

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