John Ruggie, father of Human rights, has passed away. The obituary arrived shortly after our ESG workshop "Internal and external practice of Human Rights Due Diligence" on Friday, September 17th. Did our thoughts reach Professor Ruggie?
The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP), also known as the "Ruggie Framework", was approved unanimously by the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2011, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The Guiding Principles clearly state that in addition to the state’s responsibility, companies are also responsible for respecting the human rights of employees, including business partners, and it is of great significance to oblige companies to implement human rights due diligence, as well as remedies.
Following the launch of the "Ruggie Framework", National Action plans (NAPs) based on the UNGP were developed in various countries around the world, including Japan which had completed it in October last year. In addition, in the Corporate Governance Code revised this June, it was clarified that the sustainability challenges including the respect for human rights should be addressed by the board of directors as an important management issue because it does not only reduce business risks but also enhances business opportunities.
In Europe, human rights due diligence has been legislated and become obligatory for the first time, but can we be sure that companies are better handling human rights issues, including its supply chain? At our ESG workshop in May 2020, Professor Ruggie joined us remotely from his home in the United States. He criticized the negligence of the implementation of the UNGP, by saying “if a company claims to be aligned with the guiding principles, but doesn’t do due diligence, then what it is claiming is simply not the fact”. In fact, there are numbers of cases of human rights violations by companies across the world, such as in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Southeast Asia. We see that his criticism is right - there is still a gap between policies and its practice. With his great leadership, Professor Ruggie repeatedly urged the implementation of human rights due diligence.
Professor Ruggie visited QUICK in September 2018 owing to an arrangement from Arabesque, which he served as a director. I remember him ambitiously explaining how ESG information should be disclosed and evaluated in the future with his insightful observations. Also, his friendly and down-to-earth character/personality, his exceptional charming smile, and the way he treated everyone fairly - however, once it came to human rights issues, he looked far away with a keen eye - will remain in my heart forever.
The special harvest moon in the night sky
there, I saw Professor Ruggie
the moon was so close to touch
yet still far away to reach
I would like to express my sincerest condolences with love and respect.