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Poor progress on human rights revealed

The sad state of human rights concerns among the world's largest corporations has been laid bare in a new benchmarking report, finding little to no progress has been made in the last 12 months.

The World Benchmarking Alliance released the fourth edition of its corporate human rights benchmark, assessing 230 of the world's largest companies.

Following last year's benchmark report, 95 of those companies were targeted by a joint statement from 176 investors for scoring zero on all human rights due diligence indicators. Of those 95, 79 still scored zero this year.

"There is a concerningly large group of companies who have made little to no progress in the last 12 months. We're sensing a real reluctance from the laggards to improve. When we look at the companies assessed for the first time this year, 70% failed to score any points on human rights due diligence," World Benchmarking Alliance corporate human rights benchmark lead Camille Le Pors said.

"While a small group of companies are demonstrating strong commitment and processes, it's not always clear that these deliver their intended effects. Clearly, businesses alone won't raise the bar and with COVID-19's compounding impact, there is a real need for regulatory action, as planned by the European Union, as well as increased investor pressure to force change."

Among the group of investors that applied that pressure was Aviva Investors. Aviva global head of sustainable outcomes Marte Borhaug said the lack of improvement is unacceptable.

"The societal, financial and moral imperative is clear - the global business community needs to step up its game if we want to have any chance of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by the 2030 deadline," he said.

The benchmark added the automotive industry for the first time this year and found that it was among the worst performing industries. The sector was found to have failed to manage or even adequately track human rights risks in supply chains.

Starbucks and Phillips were among the 66 companies out of the 230 to make no improvement on last year's scores. Meanwhile, Unilever and Adidas managed to post slight improvements.

Read more: World Benchmarking AllianceAviva InvestorsAdidasCamille Le PorsEuropean UnionMarte BorhaugPhillipsStarbucksUnilever
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