On this page are definitions of key terms used in the UNGP Reporting Framework and its implementation guidance. Many of these definitions are drawn from The Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights: An Interpretative Guide, published by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

To view a definition for a term, click the yellow arrow to the right of the term.

An individual whose human rights have been or may be affected by a company’s operations, products or services.

Everything that a company does in the course of fulfilling the strategy, purpose, objectives and decisions of the business. This may include activities such as mergers and acquisitions, research and development, design, construction, production, distribution, purchasing, sales, provision of security, contracting, human resource activities, marketing, conduct of external/government relations including lobbying, engagement with stakeholders, relocation of communities, social investment and the activities of legal and financial functions, among others.

Entities with which a company has some form of direct and formal engagement for the purpose of meeting its business objectives. This includes but is not limited to contractual relationships. Examples include joint venture partners, vendors, franchisees or licensees, business customers, clients, governments, suppliers, contractors and consultants.

The relationships a company has with business partners, entities in its value chain and any other State or non-State entity directly linked to its operations, products or services. They include indirect relationships in its value chain, beyond the first tier, and minority as well as majority shareholding positions in joint ventures.

Non-State, not-for-profit, voluntary entities formed by people in the social sphere that are separate from the State and the market. CSOs represent a wide range of interests and ties. They can include community-based organizations as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In the context of the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework, CSOs do not include business or for-profit associations.

An individual placed in a company to perform work but employed by a third-party agency.

All information released by a company for the purpose of informing shareholders or other stakeholders.

The macro-level process of ensuring that a company’s responsibility to respect human rights is driven across the organization, into its business values and culture. It requires that all personnel are aware of the company’s public commitment to respect human rights, understand its implications for how they conduct their work, are trained, empowered and incentivized to act in ways that support the commitment, and regard it as intrinsic to the core values of the workplace. Embedding is one continual process, generally driven from the top of the company.

Basic international standards aimed at securing dignity and equality for all. Every human being is entitled to enjoy them without discrimination. They include the rights contained in the International Bill of Human Rights – meaning the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. They also include the principles concerning fundamental rights set out in the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. For more, see the page on how businesses impact human rights.

An ongoing risk management process that a reasonable and prudent company needs to follow in order to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how it addresses its adverse human rights impacts. It includes four key steps: assessing actual and potential human rights impacts; integrating and acting on the findings; tracking responses; and communicating about how impacts are addressed.

The extent to which a company achieves the objective of effectively preventing and addressing negative human rights impacts with which it may be or has been involved.

The ability of a business enterprise to effect change in the wrongful practices of another party that is causing or contributing to an adverse human rights impact.

A threshold used to determine what information a company will disclose in its formal reporting. Definitions of what constitutes that threshold vary considerably. For more on materiality, see the page on salient human rights issues.

The mitigation of a negative human rights impact refers to actions taken to reduce the extent of the impact. The mitigation of a human rights risk refers to actions taken to reduce the likelihood that a potential negative impact will occur.

A negative human rights impact occurs when an action removes or reduces the ability of an individual to enjoy his or her human rights.

A location in which a company carries out business activities. It may refer to a country, region within a country or a local area.

The prevention of a negative human rights impact refers to actions taken to ensure the impact does not occur.

A high-level and widely available statement by a company that sets out its intention to respect human rights with the expectation of being accountable for achieving that aim.

Refers to both the process of providing remedy for a negative human rights impact and the substantive outcomes that can counteract, or make good, the negative impact. These outcomes may take a range of forms such as apologies, restitution, rehabilitation, financial or non-financial compensation, and punitive sanctions (whether criminal or administrative, such as fines), as well as the prevention of harm through, for example, injunctions or guarantees of non-repetition.

The responsibility of a company to avoid infringing on the human rights of others and to address negative impacts with which it may be involved, as set out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Those human rights that are at risk of the most severe negative impacts through a company’s activities or business relationships. They therefore vary from company to company. See more about salient human rights issues here.

A negative human rights impact that is severe by virtue of one or more of the following characteristics: its scale, scope or irremediability. Scale means the gravity of the impact on the human right(s). Scope means the number of individuals that are or could be affected. Irremediability means the ease or otherwise with which those impacted could be restored to their prior enjoyment of the right(s).

Any individual or organization that may affect, or be affected by a company’s actions and decisions. In the UN Guiding Principles, and in this Reporting Framework, the primary focus is on affected or potentially affected stakeholders, meaning individuals whose human rights have been or may be affected by a company’s operations, products or services. Other particularly relevant stakeholders in the context of the UN Guiding Principles are the legitimate representatives of potentially affected stakeholders, including trade unions, as well as civil society organizations and others with experience and expertise related to business impacts on human rights.

An ongoing process of interaction and dialogue between a company and its stakeholders that enables the company to hear, understand and respond to their interests and concerns, including through collaborative approaches.

A generic term for a company report that provides information about a company’s performance on a number of sustainability dimensions such as economic, social, environmental and corporate governance issues, including human rights.

A set of 31 principles that set out the respective roles of States and companies in ensuring that companies respect human rights in their business activities and through their business relationships. The Guiding Principles were endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011.

A company’s value chain encompasses the activities that convert input into output by adding value. It includes entities with which it has a direct or indirect business relationship and which either (a) supply products or services that contribute to the company’s own products or services or (b) receive products or services from the company.

An individual performing work for a company, regardless of the existence or nature of any contractual relationship with that company.

All individuals working for a company, including employees and contract workers.