FAQ

This FAQ is designed to answer commonly asked questions about the development and use of the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework. To see the answers to the questions, click on the down arrow on the right side of each question box.

For additional questions about key concepts in the Reporting Framework please see Key Concepts. For further resources on topics related to the Reporting Framework, please see Resources.

For feedback or further information requests please contact us. Thank you for your interest.

The UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework is a groundbreaking new tool that helps companies report meaningfully on their human rights performance. It is the first comprehensive guidance for companies to report on human rights issues in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Framework is available for free on this website.

Unilever has already piloted the Framework in its draft form and ABN AMRO, Ericsson, H&M, Nestlé and Newmont are early adopters of the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework. These companies will share their experience using it, with the aim of potentially improving the implementation guidance. Dozens of other companies have already told the project team they are using the Reporting Framework as an internal management tool and/or to improve their external reporting.

The Reporting Framework also has the formal support of over 80 investors representing over $4.25 trillion assets under management worldwide.

By catalyzing greater corporate accountability and transparency on human rights in line with the global standard on business and human rights, the Reporting Framework has the potential to positively impact millions of peoples’ lives.

The UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework was developed through the Human Rights Reporting and Assurance Frameworks Initiative (RAFI), established in 2013. RAFI was co-facilitated by the leading centre of expertise on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Shift, and international accountancy firm Mazars.

Over a two-year period the RAFI team led an open, global, consultative process involving individuals from over 200 companies, investor groups, civil society organizations, governments, assurance providers and other expert organizations from all regions of the world. Consultations took place in Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Jakarta, London, Manila, Medellin, New York and Yangon. See our About Us page for more information about the development of the UNGP Reporting Framework.

The Reporting Framework is comprised of 31 ‘smart’ questions that enable companies to report meaningfully on their human rights performance, regardless of size or how far they have progressed in implementing their responsibility to respect human rights.

Companies also identify their ‘salient human rights issues‘: the human rights at risk of the most severe impacts in connection with their business. Most of the questions then focus on those salient issues.

Companies just beginning to use the Framework need only respond to eight of the smart questions to meet the minimum threshold for using the Reporting Framework. This phased approach is designed to incentivize companies to improve over time.

The implementation guidance to the Reporting Framework addresses each question of the Reporting Framework and states its objective, supporting guidance, relevant information, citations from the UN Guiding Principles and reference points in to eight other reporting initiatives.

Click here to jump to the web version of the UNGP Reporting Framework and its implementation guidance.

The UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework aims to catalyze meaningful corporate reporting on how companies understand and address human rights impacts associated with their business.

From a company’s perspective, pressure for increased transparency on human rights issues is only increasing, coming from regulators, investors, stock exchanges, civil society groups and consumers. Yet the current state of reporting is at best patchy. Much reporting is based around anecdotes and a changing array of projects and provides little clarity on how these connect to companies’ core business. Until recently there had been no clarity on what good human rights reporting looks like.

The UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework provides that clarity and, for the first time, helps companies report in a meaningful way on their progress in implementing their responsibility to respect human rights. The Framework is designed to enable companies to begin reporting on their human rights performance, regardless of size or how far they have progressed in implementing their responsibility to respect human rights. Furthermore, the Framework is organized according to a phased approach that incentivizes companies to improve over time.

Companies from six different industry sectors have agreed to be early adopters of the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework, including Unilever — the first adopter — and ABN AMRO, Ericsson, H&M, Nestlé and Newmont. They are working with the project team to share their experience of using the Framework in order to help the team improve the implementation guidance.

Dozens of other companies have told the project team they are using the Reporting Framework, whether as an internal management tool or to improve their external reporting, or both. Examples of those types of uses are available on here.

Given that the UN Guiding Principles apply to every company worldwide, the Guiding Principles Reporting Framework is designed to be a tool to help all companies, regardless of size, sector or operating context, to see how far they have progressed in implementing their responsibility to respect human rights and how to communicate that publicly.

Following 18 months of consultations with over 200 representatives from companies, governments, investor groups, civil society organizations and professional services experts, the response to the Reporting Framework has been extremely positive across all stakeholder groups.

Six global companies – ABN AMRO, Ericsson, H&M, Nestlé, Newmont and Unilever – are already committed to using the Reporting Framework, and over 80 investors representing over $4.25 trillion assets under management have stated their support for it. It has already been included in various government-led discussions and documents on business and human rights. The UN Working Group on business and human rights cites it as a, “useful reference to help business understand the practical implications of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights” in its latest report to the UN Human Rights Council, and thought leaders from a range of leading institutions in the field of business and human rights have made statements of support.

The Reporting Framework is not itself mandatory. However, there are increasing regulatory requirements, including from the European Union, making it mandatory for many companies to report on their human rights performance, often with explicit reference to the UN Guiding Principles. The Reporting Framework is the only comprehensive framework for reporting on human rights in line with the UN Guiding Principles that can help them fully meet these requirements.

Other pressures for more and better corporate reporting on human rights is coming from investors, stock exchanges, civil society groups and consumers. To meet these heightened expectations, companies will find the Reporting Framework to be a uniquely practical tool to help them be more transparent, accountable and capable of taking action on human rights issues in a meaningful way.

The Reporting Framework is not a certification. Nor does or should it provide the basis for certification. What it does do is provide a principled approach, based on the authoritative global standard of the UN Guiding Principles, for companies to assess and report on how they meet their responsibility to respect human rights.

Separate work is now underway through the Human Rights Reporting and Assurance Frameworks Initiative (RAFI) on the issue of assurance. Practitioner consultations were held in June 2015, of which summary reports are publicly available. In light of these discussions, a first draft of practitioner guidance for assurance providers will be prepared for multi-stakeholder consultation in autumn 2015. This guidance should help both companies’ internal auditors as well as their external assurance providers assess the effectiveness of companies’ human rights-related policies and processes, and enable assurance providers to present more meaningful public opinions on companies’ human rights reporting than is often the case today.

This is distinct from a certification process, which states that a company’s overall performance reaches a certain clear threshold across the board. This is difficult, if not impossible, to provide with regard to human rights for any large company.

Companies face increasing expectations from investors, governments, civil society groups and consumers to respect human rights throughout their operations and value chain, and to be transparent about their human rights impacts and their efforts to address them.

Those expectations translate into interest in companies’ public reporting on how they manage their human rights impacts. While most individual consumers do not read corporate reports, the information contained in those reports is increasingly communicated far and wide, whether shared by the company through blogs and media, included in rankings of companies by investors, analysts or NGOs, or featured in an advocacy campaign or media coverage. In other words, while the reports themselves may be read by a relatively small audience, the information they contain can reach millions of people every year.

The Reporting Framework is intended for regular reporting, typically on an annual basis and in the company’s annual, sustainability or integrated report. Some companies may use it to report more frequently through web-based or other interim or ongoing means of disclosure, and some may use it to issue a separate human rights report, as Unilever chose to do in June 2015.

The Guiding Principles Reporting Framework is not officially approved by the United Nations. It would be highly unusual for the UN to formally approve such a document.

The UN Working Group on business and human rights formally supported the process under the Human Rights Reporting and Assurance Frameworks Initiative (RAFI) that led to the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework and was consulted regularly during its development as well as being represented on the Eminent Persons Group that oversaw the development of the Reporting Framework.

In its June report to the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Working Group observed that, “The ‘UN Guiding Principles reporting framework’ provides a useful reference to help business understand the practical implications of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights and for Global Compact participant companies to report on progress on the first six principles (covering human and labour rights).”

Clearance to use the title ‘UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework’ was obtained from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Companies today are under increasing pressure to show that they respect human rights throughout their operations and value chains. This pressure is coming from regulators, investors, stock exchanges, civil society groups and consumers.

However, up to this time there has been little clarity regarding what companies should report publicly about their work to meet the global standard on business and human rights (the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights). The Guiding Principles Reporting Framework addresses this gap. It offers the first comprehensive guidance for companies to report on how they meet their responsibility to respect human rights in line with the Guiding Principles.

The UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework is designed not only to be feasible for companies of any size or sector to use, but also to provide them with a useful tool.

First, with increasing regulatory requirements for reporting on human rights, this Framework helps companies know what kind of information to report, making the task much easier.

Second, it consists of questions to which any company should seek to have answers in order to know whether it is managing risks to human rights, which increasingly also represent risks to the business.

Third, it includes linkages to other reporting and human rights-related initiatives to show how responding to their requirements can help answer questions in the Framework.

Many companies have easily at hand at least some of the information asked for under the Guiding Principles Reporting Framework. The Reporting Framework implementation guidance also includes cross-references to other key reporting initiatives to show how their provisions or indicators can form part of an answer to a question in the Reporting Framework, enabling coherent and holistic reporting on human rights.

The UNGP Reporting Framework is unique among existing non-financial reporting initiatives in its focus on salient human rights issues: those human rights at risk of the most severe negative impacts. It asks companies to identify their salient human rights issues and then focus their reporting on how they are managed. This uses the lens of risk to people, not the business, as the starting point. At the same time, evidence shows that where risks to people’s human rights are greatest, there is strong convergence with risk to the business, whether in the form of operational disruptions and delays, lost productivity and business opportunities, lower staff morale and reputational harm.

Identifying salient human rights issues is not a new process: it’s simply the first stage of human rights due diligence under the UN Guiding Principles. Identifying these issues is how a company works out where to focus its initial resources in managing human rights risks.

By contrast, most companies’ reports today are produced following the concept of materiality, for which a multitude of definitions exist. In practice, when conducting materiality assessments, many companies discount human rights issues due to flawed assumptions and a lack of internal understanding of how human rights issues connect to the business. So they miss the opportunity identify those human rights that are at greatest risk and should be priorities both for risk management and for reporting. Salience gives a simple and robust method that addresses this gap. And while it is distinct from materiality, it can easily be used alongside materiality assessments, to identify the human rights priorities for disclosure.

Learn more about salience human rights issues here.

It is assumed that most companies will include their responses to the Reporting Framework within a broader annual report, sustainability report or integrated report. They may also choose to use the Framework to provide a stand-alone report on human rights.

Answers to the questions in the Reporting Framework can be supported by data required under an industry-specific or issue-specific initiative of which the reporting company is a member, thus increasing efficiencies for the companies. The Reporting Framework implementation guidance includes cross-references to other reporting initiatives to highlight commonalities and increase feasibility.

Company reports based on the Guiding Principles Reporting Framework are not currently analyzed or graded by an official body, although the project team has begun comparing companies’ current human rights reporting to the Reporting Framework’s questions. This comparison will be available on this website.

The Reporting Framework is a product of the Human Rights Reporting and Assurance Frameworks Initiative (RAFI). The RAFI project team is now taking forward the second part of this initiative, to develop guidance on the assurance of human rights information. Practitioner consultations were held in June 2015, of which summary reports are publicly available. In light of these discussions, a first draft of guidance for assurance providers will be prepared for multi-stakeholder consultation in autumn 2015. This guidance should help both companies’ internal auditors as well as their external assurance providers assess the effectiveness of companies’ human rights-related policies and processes, and enable assurance providers to present more meaningful public opinions on companies’ human rights reporting than is often the case today.

Other ranking or benchmarking initiatives may choose to compare companies’ reports on the basis of the Reporting Framework. Since the Reporting Framework is the only reporting framework aligned with the global standard on business and human rights, comparisons of companies’ reports on human rights issues will be most meaningful if based on the questions in the Reporting Framework.

Good reporting is not the same as good performance, and vice versa. A good answer to a question depends on the company, its context and how far it has progressed in its work to implement its responsibility to respect human rights under the UN Guiding Principles. It will be important to recognize that an answer that shows where a company has challenges, where it acknowledges impacts and discusses how it is addressing them, and where it sets out plans for improvement will often be a better answer than one that implies that all is perfect.

The project team is developing further short guidance on what to look for and reward in companies’ reporting, which will be posted on this website in the Resources section.

The UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework is the result of two years of research and consultation with business, civil society groups, investors and governments across all regions. Companies can begin using it straight away to drive better and more transparent management of human rights issues across their value chains, with the potential to positively impact millions of peoples’ lives around the globe.

In the first year after the launch, the project team will work with a number of early adopters, including Unilever – the first adopter – and ABN AMRO, Ericsson, H&M, Nestlé and Newmont to learn from their experience and identify ways to further improve the implementation guidance and supporting resources. The project team will also continue to welcome feedback also from others using the Reporting Framework, whether companies, investors, civil society, government or other experts and practitioners. It is anticipated that this process of learning will continue in the future to contribute to further updates of the guidance, and that at some point the Framework itself should be reviewed and could be revised.

The International <IR> Framework and the UNGP Reporting Framework both seek to advance the quality of corporate reporting, emphasizing a forward-looking approach to reporting and the demonstration of continuous improvement over time. For more information, see our page about the Reporting Framework and the <IR> Framework.

The Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB), launched in December 2014, will rank the top 500 globally listed companies on their human rights policy, process and performance, harnessing the competitive nature of the markets to drive better human rights’ performance. Click here for an FAQ that explains the relationship between the CHRB and the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework.