03 abr 2019
Conference on Business and Human Rights

GARAMENDI, MÉNDEZ AND SUÁREZ INAUGURATED THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON BUSINESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS

Other participants included SEGIB’s Secretary General, Rebeca Grynspan and the Vice-President of OIE, Mthunzi Mdwaba, among others.

Today, the president of CEOE, Antonio Garamendi; the Secretary of State for Commerce, Xiana Méndez, and the Secretary General of the OIE, Roberto Suárez, delivered the opening speech of the International Conference on Business and Human Rights at the headquarters of the Business Confederation. Other conference participants included the Secretary General of SEGIB, Rebeca Grynspan; the OIE Vice President in the ILO, Mthunzi Mdwaba; and the president of the CEOE’s CSR Committee, Carmen Planas.

Conference on Business and Human Rights
The president of CEOE, Antonio Garamendi; the Secretary of State for Commerce, Xiana Méndez; and the Secretary General of the OIE, Roberto Suárez; at the International Conference on Business and Human Rights — ©Jesús Umbría

During the conference, topics addressed included legislative initiatives in due diligence processes on Human Rights and how companies are carrying out steps 2 and 3 of this due diligence process on Human Rights, i.e., integrating the conclusions and taking related actions, as well as monitoring the effectiveness of the company's responses.

In addition, they raised the issue of how to measure the impact of Human Rights applied to the value chain of companies on the population, workers and communities within the context of the Sustainable Development Goals. With regard to SMEs, they analysed how to expand the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The president of CEOE, Antonio Garamendi, highlighted the efforts made in following the discussions and positioning of international business organizations on Human Rights and Business. He stressed that the private sector is highly involved in the promotion of initiatives aimed at facilitating the application of the Guiding Principles and frameworks, such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the Tripartite Declaration of Principles on Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy.  In this regard, Garamendi said that the OIE, BUSINESSEUROPE and BIAC, organizations of which CEOE is a member, as well as the International Chamber of Commerce, are closely following the efforts of an intergovernmental working group on the Zero draft of the legally binding instrument related to human rights, the activities of transnational corporations and other enterprises, and the draft optional protocol.

 

Role of the business organizations

The president of CEOE assured that “business organizations are aware of the role they play in the field of human rights, promoting the sustainable development of companies, advising them on the guidelines related to international labour standards, decent work and participating in international initiatives that promote due diligence in labour rights issues ". In addition, he believes that the business sector has the responsibility to ensure that human rights are respected, both at the workplace and in its wider sphere of influence.

In this regard, Garamendi indicated that it could contribute to promoting respect for human rights, providing safe and healthy working conditions, guaranteeing freedom of association, providing access to basic health, education and housing for workers and their families, reducing inequalities, promoting inclusive societies, promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work, among other factors.

The president of CEOE stressed that all this must be linked to effective, efficient and inclusive due-diligence processes, which will allow the company to be competitive at a national and international level. Given the importance of this matter, Garamendi announced that on April 24 and in collaboration with the ILO, the OIE, BUSINESSEUROPE, CEIB and other European business organizations, there will be a conference on the relevance of Transnational Company Agreements in the promotion of social dialogue, Corporate Social Responsibility policies and Human Rights.

The Secretary General of the OIE, Roberto Suárez, said that we must try to better understand the specific needs of organizations and companies and "identify what else needs to be done from the company side to preserve human rights," he added. In this regard, he highlighted some obstacles in the process such as an overly regulatory approach or the scarce support, in some instances, from public institutions. In any case, he explained that it is necessary to make practical advances and turn challenges into achievements and opportunities for companies.

 

Sustainability and competitiveness

The State Secretariat for Trade channels efforts aimed at including the protection and development of Human Rights and Sustainability in Free Trade Agreements, broad and profound, negotiated between the EU and other countries or regions. These agreements provide a powerful incentive for governments to make these commitments."

The Secretary of State for Trade, Xiana Méndez, stressed that "competitiveness is a necessary pre-requisite for companies to be able to play their fundamental role in society. From a corporate point of view, this is, in fact, the true challenge of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. We firmly believe that sustainability and competitiveness are compatible. Thus, innovative companies develop important competitive advantages, such as better recognition of their brands and easier access to finance. "

After the opening session, the Secretary General of the OIE moderated a high-level dialogue between the Secretary General of SEGIB, Rebeca Grynspan, and the OIE Vice President in the ILO, Mthunzi Mdwaba, in which they addressed the importance of making compliance with the SDGs universal, of ensuring that advances in the Agenda for Sustainable Development 2030 lead to situations where everyone wins or of the need for workers to defend their jobs and their rights.

Emphasis was made in the fact that not only must the SDGs be complied with, but that we must go further and make sure that things are done well; supporting SMEs in the sustainability process by helping them to establish a productive strategy and reducing informal work; and supporting the defence of decent work, with the involvement of government institutions to walk side-by-side with companies and workers in this process.

 

Closing

The event was closed by the president of CEOE’s CSR Committee, Carmen Planas, and the OIE’s Deputy Secretary General, Matthias Thorns. Planas highlighted the role of companies in the defence of human rights, noting that "companies, through their CSR policies, have contributed very strongly to the implementation of the this defence of human rights and social responsibility."

Along this line, the president of the CSR Commission explained that CEOE considers the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations as if they were its own. Carmen Planas concluded by emphasizing that "CSR has become a differentiating feature for the company" and encouraged further work in the defence of human rights.