Fact Sheet #27a) External Policies and Practices Reflect Human Rights

Level 4

Element: Alignment of Policies and Processes

Outcome 27: Internal and external policies and practices reflect human rights.

Indicator 27a): Organization ensures that its external policies and practices take into account human rights, when applicable.

Possible Measures and Data Sources:

  • Code of conduct on ethical business practices.
  • Procurement policies and documented practices which include qualified suppliers who have workplaces that respect human rights, or who are designated group members.
  • Documented policy subjecting third-party recruiters and contractors to all anti-discrimination and employment equity commitments.
  • Documented feedback system where the public lodge compliments or complaints on human rights issues. 
  • Tracking in annual report on impact of human rights track record on economic performance.
  • Recorded due diligence practices on anti-discrimination policy.
  • Documentation in policy statements on how human rights responsibilities align with procedures, practices, and policies. 

Indicator Description

An organization interested in maintaining a human rights culture considers how it interacts with its external partners, stakeholders, clients and the public. To do so, it ensures that a human rights perspective is integrated into all its policies and processes. It also forms partnerships with service providers or contractors that share similar human rights values.

At Level 3 the organization focused on its commitment to a human rights culture by ensuring that internal policies and practices be inclusive for its employees and clients. At Level 4, the organization concentrates on building policies and practices with external partners furthering human rights. In doing so it ensures that its suppliers/contractor’s processes and practices are consistent with its inclusive approach to employment and the provision of services. The use of a human rights lens ensures that the organization takes human rights into account as a regular part of doing business. 

For instance, an organization that accommodates an employee’s needs for a nut-free environment in its accommodation policy will ensure that its food service supplier is not only using nut-free products, but is also committed to a nut-free work environment and providing awareness training to its staff. 

Suggested Approach

Having companies assess the actual and potential human rights impacts, through their own activities and through their business relationships, [is] a critical component of human rights due diligence, enabling companies to know and show that they are meeting their responsibility to respect human rights " John Ruggie.

To ensure suppliers and contractors have policies and processes that are aligned with organizational goals regarding human rights, consider the following:

  • Know your human rights needs and obligations: Understand your legal obligations with regard to third party liability and adopt a due diligence approach to anticipating and responding to human rights and anti-discrimination protection obligations.
  • Raise awareness of needs and obligations with your partners: Your organization can develop a process or practice to guide partners on including due diligence on human rights into their processes.
  • Explore options for dealing with human rights issues: Individual people, agencies, communities, and others have unique needs that may need to be acknowledged when assessing a policy’s overall meaning. It is important that a process be developed with suppliers/contractors for dealing with situations that arise when human rights are infringed upon.
  • Decide on the best approach to take: This should take into consideration the method by which policies and practices are examined and maintained with partners.
  • Decide which policies and processes will be implemented: Much effort goes into the development of policies. As clear as the organization has been internally about its goals and the reasons for establishing a human rights culture, it is equally or more important to be clear with outside stakeholders, contractors, consultants and suppliers about what the organization is trying to achieve with its policies, how it is doing this, and why. If there are parts of a policy that are included to answer the particular needs or environment of the organization, it is a good idea to list those needs. Some things to include might be an organization’s rules that will apply about privacy and confidentiality (see factsheet 29b)). [1]
  • Build in flexibility to respond to new human rights trends or employee/client needs: Each industry has different requirements that may affect how a policy is applied. There may be different health, safety, security and accessibility issues that need to be considered.

Promising Practices

  • Contracting with companies that share the same values. An organization that had a scent free policy encouraged its building landlord to contract with a company providing a cleaning service that used green products that are scent free.
  • Contracting with companies that have provided their staff with human rights training. Several organizations contract with companies that provide temporary workers who are already trained on the duty to accommodate, anti-harassment, and scent free environment policies. This means that workers referred from these companies will already understand and be diligent about particular human rights matters that are of importance to the organization.

Useful Tools and Links

Employment Equity Act

Canadian Human Rights Act
Employment Equity: Frequently Asked Questions - Canadian Human Rights Commission

International Bill of Human Rights and core instruments  International Labour Organizations

Guide to Human Rights Impact Assessment and Management – International Financial Corporation

Policy Paper on Human Rights Impact Analysis -
Canadian Human Rights Commission  (will be available soon)

Human Rights Matrix - Global Business Initiative on Human Rights

Bona Fide Occupational Requirements and Bona Fide Justifications under the Canadian Human Rights Act – The Implications of Meiorin and Grismer (2007) - Canadian Human Rights Commission

Meiorin Case:British Columbia (Public Service Employee Relations Commission) v. BCGSEU, [1999] 3 S.C.R. 3

Grismer Case:British Columbia (Superintendent of Motor Vehicles) v. British Columbia (Council of Human Rights), [1999] 3 S.C.R. 868

Reflecting Religious Diversity in Canadian Public Policy: Perspectives from Federal Policy Practitioners - Policy Research Initiative

Towards an Inclusive Organizational Culture, Applying a Diversity Lens (2001) - Anne Buchanan

Policy and Procedures on the Accommodation of Mental Illness (2008) - Canadian Human Rights Commission 


Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework, excerpted from the Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and other business enterprises, John Ruggie

Anne Moore Odell: Investors Support UN Business and Human Rights Mandate (June 11, 2008)

Towards an Inclusive Organizational Culture, Applying a Diversity Lens (2001), Anne Buchanan

 [1] These are the headings used in: Policy and Procedures on the Accommodation of Mental Illness (2008)  -  Canadian Human Rights Commission 

Date modified: