Fact Sheet #31a) External Promotion of Human Rights

Level 5

Element: Leadership and Accountability

Outcome 31: Senior leadership has initiated actions to demonstrate its broad commitment to human rights within their community, locally and internationally.

Indicator 31a): Organization promotes human rights principles outside its organization.

Possible Measures and Data Sources:

  • Examples of the promotion of human rights principles outside of the organization, such as:
    • Participation on human rights panel of discussion, conference, etc.
    • Sponsorship of a human rights cause.
    • Participation in a human rights initiative that is not directly linked to the business, e.g. human rights award, literacy programs.

Indicator Description

Organizations can have a positive impact in society by publicly advocating the value of protecting and advancing human rights. This means looking at ethical standards and human rights laws or covenants that have an impact beyond the organization’s immediate interests. [1]

At Level 4, all workplace parties understand their rights and responsibilities and, as opportunities arise, are working to sustain a human rights culture. To do so, the organization engaged with external partners and suppliers. It also implemented a process to address systemic issues. At Level 5, the organization is deeply committed to human rights and shares its experience and expertise with external groups by participating in forums and sponsoring relevant causes. The focus of actions/initiatives taken is not necessarily linked to an organization’s usual business activities. Demonstrating respect for human rights is the main goal of these special initiatives.

For example, an organization may dedicate resources and time to partnering in the delivery of literacy training to underprivileged groups or communities.

Suggested Approach

At this stage of the journey, human rights considerations are part of the organization’s DNA. As it celebrates its successes and reflects on its unique overall experience, it is in a position to broadly promote human rights and to contribute to the overall interests of its community, locally and internationally. To do so, staff involved may want to consider the following:

  • Reflect on your journey: Along the way, you developed expertise or an interest in certain aspects of human rights. You may have already undertaken a number of activities that had a positive impact within the organization. Evaluating what has already been done, or what is currently taking place, is a good starting point to decide how an organization can contribute further to fostering human rights.
  • Choose a cause that has internal meaning: Experience shows that choosing to sponsor a cause that resonates with the living experience of the organization has a greater chance of success.
  • Get an idea of what is already being done by others: Learn from what others are doing and find out if there are ways to engage in activities that are already taking place. Participating in events such as Black History Month, Human Rights Day, Anti-Racial Discrimination Day or partnering in diversity-related sports events is a great way to start. Reading through Corporate Social Responsibility Reports from other organizations in the same industry will also help generate ideas for activities and networking.
  • Get people involved: Ensuring that there is both internal and external support and understanding for broad initiatives is very important. Decide on a communications plan that will promote your efforts and keep everyone informed (see fact sheet 33a)). This might include developing an advertising campaign, holding town hall type sessions and press conferences, creating websites (ensuring that they are as accessible as possible), etc. There may also be a chance to engage with employees and community members by providing opportunities to volunteer.
  • Celebrate achievements: Celebrating achievements is a great way to keep people motivated and it is fun! Include awards, displays of gratitude and celebration in the action plans.

Promising Practices

  • Facilitating the sponsorship of charities: Federal public servants in Canada have a major campaign in place to help raise funds for registered Canadian charities. One way that public servants may contribute is by having charitable donations taken directly off of their paychecks. Representatives also help raise money by hosting additional fundraisers throughout the year.
  • Supporting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Other (LGBTO) activities: Pride Week in Toronto has been sponsored by a number of federally regulated corporations, including premier sponsorship from one of Canada’s largest chartered banks.
  • Creating scholarship opportunities: A large Canadian chartered bank offers scholarships for Aboriginal students and new Canadians.
  • Participating in the United Nations (UN) Global Compact: Many federally regulated employers have signed on to the United Nations Global Compact. This is a platform for organizations to share best practices, participate in working groups, network and generally “engage in areas of human rights, labour, environment, anti-corruption and contribute to UN goals in order to achieve the common objectives of building a sustainable and inclusive global economy.” [2]

Useful Tools and Links

Corporate Social Responsibility: An Implementation Guide for Canadian Business– Industry Canada

Conversations with Disbelievers: Persuading Companies to Address Social Challenges

A Guide for Integrating Human Rights into Business Management

Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work - International Labour Organization

The Partnership Handbook - Flo Frank and Anne Smith 

Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative

Rio Declaration on Environment and Development

United Nations Convention against Corruption

The United Nations Global Compact

Universal Declaration of Human Rights


Business Leaders Initiative on Human Rights, UN Global Compact and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Guide for Integrating Human Rights into Business Management (2006)

Industry Canada, Corporate Social Responsibility: An Implementation Guide for Canadian Business (2006)

Frank, F. & Smith, A. (for Human Resources and Skills Development Canada). The Partnership Handbook (Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2000) p. 41 

Svendsen, Ann. "Social Accounting:The State of the Art." Centre for Innovation in Management. Publication: At Work, Feb. 1998. Web. 28 Feb. 2013.

The United Nations Global Compact. The Ten Principles

[1]The United Nations Global Compact incorporates international standards and is a potential resource for organizations. The following is a link to their 10 principles:


[2] This definition was provided on the UN Global Compact’s website  



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