Welcome to the EY Japan Human Rights and Business newsletter
This newsletter, published monthly, provides our clients with the latest information on the rapidly evolving landscape of global regulatory and social expectations of business in the field of human rights. Periodically, "back to basics" content will address core concepts and look back on fundamental developments in the business and human rights field. In this edition, we discuss the newly released Human Rights Reporting Framework and its implications for Japanese businesses, and profile one of our team members in the Tokyo office.
New Human Rights Reporting Framework
In June 2011, the UN Human Rights Council unanimously approved the "Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights"(*1), the global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity. The Guiding Principles clarify the state's duty to protect human rights, the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and access to remedy for victims of business-related abuses. Many leading global companies have begun to align their internal processes with the requirements in the Guiding Principles.
In February 2015, the world's first comprehensive guidance for companies to report on how they respect human rights, namely, the Human Rights Reporting Framework, was released in London. The framework consists of eight overarching questions (each with one or more supporting questions) and four information requirements. To address "reporting fatigue", questions are cross-referenced with initiatives including GRI G4 and the Integrated Reporting Framework. Companies are asked to focus on their "salient" human rights impacts, that is, those rights that are at risk of the most severe potential negative impacts. Companies from five different industries, namely, Unilever, Ericsson, H&M, Nestle and Newmont, are piloting the framework, and many others are expected to start using it in 2015. The next step will be the release of an assurance framework in early 2016. Representatives from EY CCaSS are participating in that drafting process.
Many Japanese companies lag slightly behind their global peers when it comes to trumpeting their CSR achievements. Many will say that they are generally reluctant to report publically on work in progress, preferring to wait until a project is completed to a high standard before releasing information publically.
However, the necessity for corporate "transparency" and "best practice sharing" is drawing increasing international focus, civil society initiatives that rank companies on the basis of publically available information are proliferating and consumers and long term investors increasingly seek more detailed information from companies on how they address their responsibility to respect human rights. Indeed, the new Reporting Framework is supported by sixty-seven investors representing $3.91 trillion assets under management. As such, many companies are seeing the benefit in increased disclosure, even of work in progress.
The key focus of the new Reporting Framework is to "demonstrate ongoing improvement". The Framework's reporting principles expressly acknowledge that respect for human rights is "not a finite process that can be reported as completed". Noting that many companies will not be able to report against all of the criteria immediately, the Framework sets a minimum threshold of 12 questions "designed to be attainable by any company that has begun to address human rights within its business", and encourages companies to "work towards answering all of the supporting questions and improving the quality of their responses over time".
In light of this, and with support as necessary, we cannot see any reason why Japanese companies cannot begin to highlight the excellent work that is underway in Japan.
In each edition of our newsletter, we profile one of the members of our team. This month we profile Masataka Nagoshi, a Manager in our CCaSS Tokyo team.
Masa is responsible for project management and research on labor, human rights, diversity & inclusion and sustainability. Prior to joining EY, he was an adviser at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and served at the United Nations Office in Geneva from 2010 to 2014. During this time he advised the Japanese government on its human rights policy through assessing global trends as well as the prevailing political and social contexts in ASEAN and the Middle-East. He regularly participated in global rule-making meetings and was the representative of Japan during the negotiations on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. He has a Masters' degree in Human Rights from the University College London and is fluent in Japanese, English, Chinese and French.