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Business & Human Rights Resource Centre Launches First Briefing on Business & Freedom of Association

Submitted by: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Categories: Human Rights, Corporate Governance

Posted: Jul 04, 2013 – 10:00 AM EST


LONDON, Jul. 04 /CSRwire/ - Today the non-profit Business & Human Rights Resource Centre is launching its first briefing on business & freedom of association. 

Download the briefing here

This briefing provides an overview of companies’ impacts on freedom of association: key cases, trends and developments.  It highlights concerns raised by civil society, company responses to allegations of misconduct, positive initiatives by business, and developments in law, policy and lawsuits.  

Danielle McMullan, the Centre’s lead researcher on business & freedom of association, commented:

“Without respect for freedom of association, workers are unable to access their most basic labour and human rights – freedom of association is an enabling right for the protection of other rights. 

We were recently reminded of this when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed in Bangladesh, killing over 1120 garment workers.  Without the ability for workers to come together and demand respect of their rights and improved conditions, we risk seeing many more tragedies of this kind.” 

Subjects in the briefing include abuses against trade unionists (including killings, death threats and dismissals); interference with the right to form trade unions, including union bans; interference with the right to strike; and corporate lobbying to undermine trade union rights.  The briefing refers to positive steps by companies, such as entering into International Framework Agreements pledging respect for minimum labour standards in their operations around the world.  It also highlights relevant lawsuits against companies in Argentina, Switzerland, Turkey and USA. 

Historically the labour and human rights movements have tended to work somewhat separately.  Through this briefing we want to help put the fundamental right to freedom of association front and centre on the business & human rights agenda.

Mauricio Lazala, the Resource Centre’s Deputy Director, said:

“Being from Colombia, for a long time the most deadly country to be a trade unionist, I know from experience the courageous work by advocates every day to safeguard the right to freedom of association, often risking their own lives.  We hope this briefing goes some way to highlighting the work of these individuals.  The briefing draws attention to abuses by companies, and to the good practices of some firms which will serve as examples".

The briefing’s introduction provides a list of companies with the best and worst response rates when we invited them to respond to concerns about alleged abuses of freedom of association raised by trade unions and other civil society groups.  Of those companies invited to respond multiple times, Apple and Canadian mining company Excellon Resources are among those with the poorest response rates.  The Centre invites companies to respond when they have not otherwise commented publicly on allegations; the response rate is 70% globally on the full range of issues. 

The introduction also presents country-by-country response rates by companies to alleged abuses of freedom of association, according to where the companies are headquartered, for example:

  • Bangladesh: 0%
  • Brazil: 100%
  • Canada: 20%
  • China (mainland): 75%
  • Denmark: 67%
  • Germany: 90%
  • Hong Kong: 100%
  • India: 100% 
  • Italy: 25%
  • Japan: 100%
  • Kazakhstan: 0%
  • Mexico: 75%
  • Netherlands: 100%
  • Nigeria 100%
  • South Africa: 100%
  • Spain: 100%
  • UK: 74%
  • USA: 76%

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre will submit the briefing to the United Nations Working Group on business & human rights, the International Labour Organization, and the International Finance Corporation.  The Centre will contact governments to draw attention to those companies headquartered in their country that fail to respond to civil society when concerns about freedom of association are raised.  The Centre will also note which companies have a good response rate.  The Centre will convey to certain governments – including Bangladesh, Canada, Italy and Kazakhstan – civil society’s concern that companies headquartered in their countries have had such a low response rate when alleged abuses relating to freedom of association have been raised. 

The briefing includes statistics on companies we invited to respond to allegations concerning freedom of association.  Below are the response rates for firms invited to respond at least 3 times:

  • adidas: 100% (4 responses, 4 invitations)
  • Apple: 0% (0 out of 3)
  • Carrefour: 67% (2 out of 3)
  • Cerrejón: 100% (3 out of 3)
  • Coca-Cola: 100% (3 out of 3)
  • Foxconn: 75% (6 out of 8)
  • Glencore: 67% (2 out of 3)
  • Deutsche Post DHL: 100% (5 out of 5)
  • Dole Foods: 75% (3 out of 4)
  • Excellon Resources: 33% (1 out of 3)
  • McDonald’s: 100% (3 out of 3)
  • Mondelēz /Kraft: 100% (4 out of 4)
  • National Express: 67% (2 out of 3)
  • Nestlé: 100% (3 out of 3)
  • Nike: 67% (2 out of 3)
  • Nokia: 100% (3 out of 3)
  • Unilever: 100% (3 out of 3)
  • Walmart: 88% (7 out of 8) 

Further information on this subject is available on our Business & Freedom of Association Portal – an online hub that provides up-to-date information on private sector impacts on freedom of association. 

To discuss the briefing, please contact our researchers on business and freedom of association: Danielle McMullan,
mcmullan@business-humanrights.org and Irene Pietropaoli, pietropaoli@business-humanrights.org , or Mauricio Lazala, Deputy Director, lazala@business-humanrights.org, tel: +44-20-7636-7774.


Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, a non-profit organization, provides the leading information hub on business & human rights: www.business-humanrights.org.  The website tracks reports about the human rights impacts (positive & negative) of over 5000 companies in over 190 countries, and provides guidance tools and resources.  The site is relied on by NGOs, businesspeople, investors, governments and the United Nations.

We seek responses from companies when concerns are raised by civil society and when companies have not yet responded to those concerns.  The response rate is over 70% globally.  Advocates thank us for bringing global attention to their concerns and for eliciting responses from companies.  Companies thank us for providing them the opportunity to present their responses in full.  This process often leads to real improvements on the ground.

Our researchers are based in Brazil, Colombia, Hong Kong, India, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Senegal, South Africa, Thailand, UK, Ukraine and USA.

Mary Robinson chairs the Resource Centre's 70-member International Advisory Network.  Its 23 Academic Partners include leading academic institutions in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America. 

Special portals on the Resource Centre’s website include:

For further information about the Resource Centre, see the “About us” section of the website.

SUPPORT THE RESOURCE CENTRE: Please consider donating to Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, to enable us to continue our work, and to offer our website, special portals, Weekly Updates and regional briefings to a global audience without any charge.  As we do not accept donations from companies or company foundations, donations from individuals and foundations are essential for our work to continue. 

Donate online: http://www.business-humanrights.org/Aboutus/Makeadonation

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre is a Registered Charity in England & Wales (no. 1096664), and in the United States is a tax-exempt non-profit organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. 

For more information, please contact:

Danielle McMullan Researcher
Phone: +44-20-7636-7774
Fax: +44-20-7636-7775
Twitter: @bhrrc
Mauricio Lazala Deputy Director
Phone: +44-20-7636-7774
Fax: +44-20-7636-7775
Twitter: @bhrrc


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