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Dec 04, 2014

Global corporate human rights index to launch

Benchmark will offer investors, companies and consumers a ranking of issuers by human rights behavior

ESG research firm EIRIS, Aviva Investors and four other organizations have joined forces to launch what they say is the world’s first wide-scale ranking of companies based on their human rights performance.

The index will offer investors, corporations, policy makers and consumers a quick view of corporate behavior on issues such as labor, safety and discrimination.

During its first stage, the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) will research and rank 500 of the world’s largest companies from the agriculture, apparel, extractives and ICT industries, say the organizations behind the move in a press release. This information and subsequent company rankings, which will be offered through an open-source online portal, will eventually expand to include other fields.

The groups behind the CHRB say they will launch a worldwide consultation to determine the methodology, while analysis of the first 500 companies will take three to five years. From then on, more and more information will be released incrementally.

Other organizers of the CHRB include Calvert Investments, Dutch investor association VBDO, the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) ‒ a think tank whose board includes former Irish president Mary Robinson ‒ and the UK-based non-profit organization Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.

‘The CHRB will be the first publicly available ranking of corporate policies, processes and performance on human rights,’ says John Morrison of the IHRB. ‘It will seek to assess the reality behind companies’ public commitments, including what they do to address negative impacts when things go wrong, and what kinds of collaborations they undertake to scale their resources.’

As an impetus for the benchmark, the organizers cite improvements made in labor conditions within the Bangladeshi apparel sector spurred by the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory that killed more than 1,100 people. They also say increased scrutiny of conflict mineral legislation in the US has cut by 65 percent the income of armed groups that profit from the trade.