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French CEOs add their weight to WBCSD’s call to action for business leadership on human rights

Paris and Geneva – WEBWIRE

 In 2017 France adopted a Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law, making the country one of the spearheads in legally mandating companies to identify and prevent adverse human rights and environmental impacts in their own activities as well as from activities of their subcontractors and suppliers.

The French Law reinforced the momentum that the launch of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) had sparked in 2011.  “Despite this prominence – internationally, and in France - we observed few CEO’s speaking out on this topic. We believe the time has come to elevate the debate to the C-suite and encourage CEO action beyond a few leading companies”, said Kitrhona Cerri, Director of Social Impact at WBCSD.

The French edition of the CEO Guide to Human Rights – developed by enterprises pour les droits de l’homme (EDH) – draws on this realization and aims to provide a platform for French top executives to engage their peers in a dialogue on this important cause and mobilize their leadership role.

Emphasizing the importance of the Guide, Laurent Lhopitallier, President of EDH, said: “Many French companies are widely recognized for the consideration and integration of Human Rights in their business practices. With the duty of vigilance law, more and more French companies have an obligation to adequately address the issues of serious human rights violations in their activities and their supply chain. At EDH we strive to help our members to translate broad commitments into concrete actions.  We therefore welcome the release of this guide that will raise the awareness of CEOs on the challenge and provide more momentum to our efforts.”

WBCSD’s CEO Guide to Human Rights brings to life the business drivers for action and the tangible steps CEOs can take to ensure their companies go beyond compliance and drive transformative change in people’s lives.

In the introduction of the CEO Guide, dozens of business executives from across the world call for urgent business leadership on respect for human rights. The French edition complements the original call for business leadership with a local perspective and call to action endorsed by the CEOs of member companies of EDH. These are:

  • Laurent Lhopitallier, President, EDH
  • Jean-Bernard Lévy, CEO, EDF
  • Benoît Coquart, CEO, Legrand
  • Florent Menegaux, CEO, Michelin
  • Stéphane Richard, CEO, Orange
  • Serge Weinberg, President, Sanofi
  • Jean-Pascal Tricoire, CEO, Schneider Electric
  • Jean-Marc Chery, CEO, STMicroelectronics
  • Bertrand Camus, CEO, Suez
  • Antoine Frérot, CEO, Veolia
  • Xavier Huillard, CEO, Vinci

Collectively, top executives across over 40 member companies of WBCSD and EDH are sending a message to raise the bar on respect for human rights, embed human rights in corporate culture, set clear expectations of suppliers and business partners and drive meaningful engagement and collaborations with peers, governments as well as civil society.
Antoine Frérot, CEO of Veolia, adds his personal call to action to the CEO Guide: “Veolia’s raison d’être is to make a decisive contribution to human progress through the provision of environmental services. I encourage others to join us in our firm commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, with respect for human rights as a guiding thread.”
The CEO Guide highlights four drivers for action beyond compliance that make a compelling business case for any corporate leader:

  • Regulation is making expectations enforceable;
  • Public interest is high;
  • Business relationships are in the spotlight; and
  • Investor expectations are rising.

CEO leadership plays a crucial role in ensuring that human rights are taken seriously across their own companies and business relationships. To support this, the CEO Guide highlights actions that executives can take to advance respect for human rights:

  • Know the most important human rights for your company;
  • Lead from the top;
  • Engage transparently with stakeholders;
  • Collaborate beyond your comfort zone.

“Business has a fundamental responsibility to respect human rights, but also a huge opportunity to transform people’s lives for the better. Realizing universal human rights for all is one of the most powerful opportunities we have to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals”, said Peter Bakker, WBCSD’s President and CEO. “The Guide puts forward a bold and unprecedented statement from business leaders, whose companies’ actions and policies influence vast global supply chains. We hope their leadership will inspire other CEOs to take action in support of this important cause.”

More information:

  • The CEO Guide to Human Rights can be downloaded here in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

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