Most big companies failing UN human rights test, ranking shows

China’s Kweichow Moutai ranked bottom, followed by Heilan Home and US energy drinks maker Monster Beverage. (Shutterstock)
Updated 12 November 2018

Most big companies failing UN human rights test, ranking shows

  • More than 40 percent of businesses analyzed scored zero on human rights due diligence — the practice of identifying and addressing the risk of abuses

LONDON: Most big companies operating in sectors at high risk of labor abuses are failing to meet human rights standards set by the United Nations, according to an analysis of 100 major companies published on Monday.
From tackling child labor to ensuring equal treatment for women, UN principles require all businesses prove they are committed to human rights and treat workers fairly.
But an analysis of more than 100 major apparel, agricultural and extraction firms by the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB), a British charity, found many had little to show for.
Sportswear giant Adidas came top with 87 out of 100 points in the ranking that used public information on practices and policies on issues such as transparency, forced labor and the living wage to rank companies.
It was followed by miners Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, while two Chinese companies — liquor maker Kweichow Moutai and fast fashion brand Heilan Home — were ranked last.
But almost two-thirds of firms scored less than 30 points, putting the overall average at 27.
“The majority are failing to make the grade,” CHRB director Margaret Wachenfeld said in a statement.
The study comes as big brands face growing pressure from regulators and consumers to ensure their global operations are not tainted by modern-day slavery, with campaigners estimating almost 25 million people worldwide are trapped in forced labor.
More than 40 percent of businesses analyzed scored zero on human rights due diligence — the practice of identifying and addressing the risk of abuses.

CONCERNING FINDINGS
“Forced and child labor, gender equality and protecting activists are some of the most pressing issues of our time,” said John Morrison, the head of the London-based Institute of Human Rights and Business, a think tank. “Companies need to show how they’re addressing these challenges.”
A low score did not indicate bad practices in a company but showed the company had made available little or no information on its actions to address the risk of human rights violations, CHRB said.
China’s Kweichow Moutai ranked bottom, followed by Heilan Home and US energy drinks maker Monster Beverage. None of these companies replied to requests for comment.
Coffee chain Starbucks and fashion houses Prada and Hermes also ranked among the worst.
A spokesman for Starbucks said the company had zero-tolerance policies for human rights infractions and was dedicated to bringing customers coffee “sourced in the most ethically way possible.”
Hermes said respect of human rights and labor laws was deeply rooted in its core values, organization and production chain.
Both companies questioned the ranking’s methodology, saying it did not reflect their commitment to human rights.
A spokeswoman for Prada said the company preferred not to comment.
Caroline Robinson, director of the British charity Focus on Labour Exploitation, said the report’s findings were concerning.
“Companies simply aren’t doing enough,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“If businesses are not prepared to take meaningful action ... then government intervention will be needed to move corporate responsibility from option to necessity.”
CHRB called on investors to help drive change by challenging poorly performing companies to do better.
Insurance firm Aviva, Swedish bank Nordea and Dutch financial services provider APG had already pledged to use the ranking to inform future investment decisions, it said. (Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change.


Biden expected to nominate Blinken as secretary of state

Updated 23 November 2020

Biden expected to nominate Blinken as secretary of state

  • Antony Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration and has close ties with Biden
  • Biden has pledged to build the most diverse government in modern history, and he and his team often speak about their desire for his administration to reflect America

WASHINGTON: President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate Antony Blinken as secretary of state, according to multiple people familiar with the Biden team’s planning.
Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration and has close ties with Biden. If nominated and confirmed, he would be a leading force in the incoming administration’s bid to reframe the US relationship with the rest of the world after four years in which President Donald Trump questioned longtime alliances.
In nominating Blinken, Biden would sidestep potentially thorny issues that could have affected Senate confirmation for two other candidates on his short list to be America’s top diplomat: Susan Rice and Sen. Chris Coons.
Rice would have faced significant GOP opposition and likely rejection in the Senate. She has long been a target of Republicans, including for statements she made after the deadly 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya.
Coons, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, lacked the granular experience in managing day-to-day foreign policy issues that Blinken would bring to the job.
Biden is likely to name his Cabinet picks in tranches, with groups of nominees focused on a specific top area, like the economy, national security or public health, being announced at once. Advisers to the president-elect’s transition have said they’ll make their first Cabinet announcements on Tuesday.
If Biden focuses on national security that day, Michèle Flournoy, a veteran of Pentagon policy jobs, is a top choice to lead the Defense Department. Jake Sullivan, a longtime adviser to Biden and Hillary Clinton, is also in the mix for a top job, including White House national security adviser.
For his part, Blinken recently participated in a national security briefing with Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and has weighed in publicly on notable foreign policy issues in Egypt and Ethiopia.
Biden’s secretary of state would inherit a deeply demoralized and depleted career workforce at the State Department. Trump’s two secretaries of state, Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo, offered weak resistance to the administration’s attempts to gut the agency, which were thwarted only by congressional intervention.
Although the department escaped massive proposed cuts of more than 30% in its budget for three consecutive years, it has seen a significant number of departures from its senior and rising mid-level ranks, from which many diplomats have opted to retire or leave the foreign service given limited prospects for advancements under an administration that they believe does not value their expertise.
A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School and a longtime Democratic foreign policy presence, Blinken has aligned himself with numerous former senior national security officials who have called for a major reinvestment in American diplomacy and renewed emphasis on global engagement.
“Democracy is in retreat around the world, and unfortunately it’s also in retreat at home because of the president taking a two-by-four to its institutions, its values and its people every day,” Blinken told The Associated Press in September. “Our friends know that Joe Biden knows who they are. So do our adversaries. That difference would be felt on day one.”
Blinken served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration before becoming staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chair of the panel. In the early years of the Obama administration, Blinken returned to the NSC and was then-Vice President Biden’s national security adviser before he moved to the State Department to serve as deputy to Secretary of State John Kerry.
Biden also is expected to tap longtime diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the US ambassador to the United Nations.
Biden has pledged to build the most diverse government in modern history, and he and his team often speak about their desire for his administration to reflect America. He is being watched to see whether he will make history by nominating the first woman to lead the Pentagon, the Treasury Department or the Department of Veterans Affairs or the first African American at the top of the Defense Department, the Interior Department or the Treasury Department.
Ron Klain, Biden’s incoming chief of staff, said Sunday the Trump administration’s refusal to clear the way for Biden’s team to have access to key information about agencies and federal dollars for the transition is taking its toll on planning, including the Cabinet selection process. Trump’s General Services Administration has yet to acknowledge that Biden won the election — a determination that would remove those roadblocks.
“We’re not in a position to get background checks on Cabinet nominees. And so there are definite impacts. Those impacts escalate every day,” Klain told ABC’s “This Week.”
Even some Republicans have broken with Trump in recent days and called on him to begin the transition. Joining the growing list were Sens. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Former Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a longtime Trump supporter, told ABC that it was time for the president to stop contesting the outcome and called Trump’s legal team seeking to overturn the election a “national embarrassment.”
Meanwhile, planning was underway for a pandemic-modified inauguration Jan. 20. Klain said the Biden team was consulting with Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate over their plans.
“They’re going to try to have an inauguration that honors the importance and the symbolic meaning of the moment, but also does not result in the spread of the disease. That’s our goal,” Klain said.