Friday, November 25

Human Rights as a corporate responsibility.

When faced individually with situations we know are morally wrong, I think it becomes a question of discerning who we are, and what we stand for, so hopefully you stand up against corruption. By not going with the flow and doing your part to expose corruption, corrupt practises maybe curtailed or eliminated, a benefit for all of us as we share in a fairer society.

It’s when good people go with the flow for fear of "rocking the boat" that corrupt practices flourish and become “institutionalised”. These same issues apply to the management of multinational companies, collectively, in the countries where they operate.

It’s no co-incidence that regions with the worst corruption are often the poorest as a corrupt society cannot efficiently distribute its goods and services. The benefits in such a society become concentrated in the hands of the powerful few to the detriment of the community.

To- day people expect a company to reflect community standards, to show respect for the environment, and to uphold human rights wherever it operates. I think many companies do that as a matter of course, including a "company culture” based upon human rights. But there are some who say that’s the role of government and have no hesitation in employing people in appalling conditions, in violation of human rights, insisting they are simply responding to the “local” “conditions.

I think it’s important for the management of companies to have strategic links with recognised Ethical advisors such as the St James Ethics Centre (click to view) or other excellent organisations such as Amnesty International (thanks for your link Gary) and partner human right initiatives into their “corporate culture”. I think it’s a good policy for companies is to provide free counselling via the St James Ethics Centre so that if ever an employee was to feel uncomfortable about anything, anywhere in the world, that matter can be discussed confidentially with a counsellor, on the basis the “company” is committed to that “independent umpire” should a change be necessary. I know of such instances that work very well in practice.

The “torture” and abuse of prisoners under US custody was in centres managed by private contractors. Something went terribly wrong in those centres and words like “strangulation”, “asphyxiation”, “blunt force injuries” and arterio cardiovascular disease”- (sudden heart attacks ) in de classified army reports help us understand what happens to some prisoners. Australian Human Rights lawyer Michael Houigan was recently in Iraq examining evidence of human rights violations and I attended his lecture here in Melbourne entitled "Compassionate Capitalism ", doing good can be an integral part of doing well. I think that sums it all up, doesn’t it?

1 comment:

john stuyfbergen said...

Hi Lindsay,
i know i have been failing as i haven't commented at all on any of your excellent postings which i all read with great interest.
reference your article on human rights, there is a great danger, promulgated by all types of forums and also by the media, that in order to discuss human rights we need a lawyer or ethicist, as they can think over and set the rules for corporations and for us the common people, specially if trespasses occur.
if we keep on doing that, we position human rights in a very narrow (and by virtue of what is happening) in a very legalistic area. Human rights is much wider than that. in its most essential form it is the right of every human being to be what he/she is and to live accordingly and accepting that others have the same right. (this is not my definition, by the way) However, it does mean that it is basic to human existence. In that sense it could be related to ethics. we can set rules, legalise it, set policies about it, but in the end all these rules are only very small boundaries of what is essentially YOU, ME, and EVERYBODY alive.
John