Putting people and the planet at the core of business

UNGPs and proposed treaty on business and human rights

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council on 16 June 2011. The Principles were created by the UN Special Rapporteur on Business and Human Rights Prof. John Ruggie, to implement his ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework, which was agreed by the UN in 2008.

UN Guiding Principles

The agreement of the framework was widely regarded as a major breakthrough in international corporate accountability and broadly welcomed by governments, business and civil society. The Framework clarifies the duties and responsibilities of governments and corporate actors, and rests on three ‘pillars’:

  • the State duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business;
  • the corporate responsibility to respect human rights;
  • greater access by victims to effective remedy, both judicial and non-judicial.

The Guiding Principles are intended to form a common platform for action on business and human rights challenges. Rather than creating new international law, they set out the implications of existing standards and practices for States and businesses.


UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights>>


UK Government Action Plan

BHR action plan Hague & Cable

On 4 September 2013, the UK became the first country to release a Business and Human Rights Action Plan, building on its commitment to implement the UN Guiding Principles. CORE gave a cautious welcome to the action plan and urged the government to ensure that it leads to concrete steps to address corporate human rights abuse.

The UK government released its updated plan in May 2016. The plan reasserts the government’s expectation that business adopt the UNGPs and includes notable statements on supporting human rights defenders. However, the government has made few new commitments. The biggest gap is on Pillar III, access to remedy, the plan offers very little to people who are denied justice after being harmed by the international operations of UK companies. CORE finds the lack of ambition in many areas disappointing, but the publication of an updated plan demonstrates that the UK remains engaged with business and human rights.

Proposed Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights


Since 2015 the Ecuadorian Government has been leading on proposals to develop an international treaty on business and human rights, which would create a binding and robust framework that holds companies responsible for abuses committed under their watch.

Treaty discussions have been gaining momentum since June 2014, when the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution by which it decided to set up an “Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Respect to Human Rights”. In October 2017 the third session of the Working Group took place, whereby the Chairperson published elements for a draft legally binding instrument. More information on the treaty here.

UK Business and Human Rights


In 2011, the UN Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The guiding principles provide an authoritative global standard for addressing adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity, wherever such impacts occur. They set out, in three pillars, principles concerning:

  • the State’s duty to protect human rights,
  • corporate responsibility to respect human rights,
  • access to remedy for victims of human rights abuse.

CORE is primarily concerned with the first and third pillars. We believe that the UK government should set clear standards for UK companies operating overseas to prevent harm to workers, communities and the environment. Government should also take action to make sure that people can access remedy when they are harmed by the activities of a UK firm.




Compare governments’ actions to improve business respect for human rights

National Action Plans

EU-level implementation

BHRRC government action platform ICAR - National Action Plans ECCJ - EU UNGPs
The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre’s Government Action Platform can be utilised to compare governments’ actions to implement the UNGPs. ICAR has collaborated with the Danish Institute for Human Rights to develop a tool kit that includes a robust, human rights-based methodology and template for national baseline assessments, NAP development, and follow-up reporting and accountability measures. ECCJ recommendations on EU priorities for implementing UNGPs >>