Human Rights Guidance Tool for the Financial Sector

General Information on Human Rights

International human rights instruments

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 (available in 439 languages):

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966:

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966:

There are nine core international human rights instruments. Each is supported by a committee of experts to monitor implementation of the provisions by State parties. Some of the instruments are supplemented by optional protocols dealing with specific concerns. They can all be accessed at:

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has the UN mandate to promote and protect human rights. The OHCHR works to ensure the enforcement of universally recognised human rights norms and promotes the implementation of the major human rights treaties and respect for the rule of law:

By 2018, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) had adopted nearly 400 conventions, protocols and recommendations covering a broad range of subjects related to labour standards:

Human rights and business

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has a mandate to lead the business and human rights agenda within the United Nations system. It provides guidance on the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and news by country and human rights issue:

The UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights has the mandate to promote the dissemination and implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. In its report to the 2018 UN General Assembly, the Working Group highlights key features of human rights due diligence and why it matters; gaps and challenges in current business and Government practice; emerging good practices; and how key stakeholders — States and the investment community, in particular — can contribute to the scaling-up of effective human rights due diligence.

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre tracks the positive and negative human rights impacts of thousands of businesses worldwide. The site is updated on a daily basis:

The United Nations Global Compact is the world's largest voluntary corporate responsibility initiative. It offers a coherent framework for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles, including in the areas of human rights:

The United Nations Global Compact hosts an online forum designed to stimulate discussion about the dilemmas that multinational companies may face in their efforts to respect and support human rights when operating in emerging economies:

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has published Guidelines on responsible business conduct, addressed by governments to multinational enterprises operating in or from adhering countries. They provide non-binding principles and standards for responsible business conduct in a global context consistent with applicable laws and internationally recognised standards, including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights:

The Institute for Human Rights and Business is a global centre of excellence and expertise on the relationship between business and internationally proclaimed human rights standards:

The Danish Institute for Human Rights has developed a guide for integrating human rights into environmental, social and health impact assessments:

The Global Reporting Initiative offers a range of tools to help companies with reporting on sustainability, including human rights issues:

Shift, a non-profit centre for business and human rights, develops and shares public guidance materials to help governments, businesses and their stakeholders put the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights into practice:

The UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework, a result of the Human Rights Reporting and Assurance Frameworks Initiative (RAFI) led by Shift and Mazars, provides a comprehensive set of questions to guide companies to report on how they respect human rights:

The Corporate Human Rights Benchmark is a collaboration led by investors and civil society organizations dedicated at assessing corporate human rights performance:

The Children's Rights and Business Principles are a set of principles developed by UNICEF, the United Nations Global Compact and Save the Children. Their purpose is to guide companies on actions they can take in the workplace, marketplace and community to respect and support children's rights:

The Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights were developed to guide companies in balancing the need for safety and security while respecting human rights:

Human rights and the finance sector


The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has published guidance on the interpretation and implementation of the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human rights (UNGPs) in the context of the finance sector:

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) develops guidance for the implementation of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises in the context of the financial sector. Guidance, highlighting key considerations in carrying out due diligence that will help to identify and respond to environmental and social risks, is available for institutional investors, and in development for the banking sector:

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)'s Financial Services Sector Supplement provides the finance sector with a tailored version of GRI's Sustainability Reporting Guidelines and reporting tools, including on human rights: .
The human rights-related GRI standards are currently in review, to align with the expectations of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights:

The UNEP Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System produced a working paper in cooperation with the Institute for Human Rights and Business to highlight the importance of human rights in delivering a sustainable finance system:

The Interactive Map for Business of Anti-Human Trafficking Organisations is an online resource developed in 2018 to provide companies and the general public with resources to identify issues and initiatives aiming at the eradication of modern slavery, including financial institutions alliances:


The Equator Principles, a credit risk management framework for determining, assessing and managing environmental and social risk in projects, recognize the importance of human rights in financial practices:
A review of the Equator Principles (towards EP4) is in process, with social impact and human rights being a specific areas of focus:

The Dutch Banking Sector Agreement was developed by a broad coalition of banks, trade unions, NGOs and the central government to help banks identify human rights risks and take appropriate action in their financing decisions and operations:

The Thun Group of Banks is an informal group of bank representatives that have been discussing the meaning of the Protect, Respect, Remedy Framework and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in relation to the activities of banks. It has released a series of discussion papers in this regard:

The Wolfsberg Group is an association of eleven global banks, which aims to develop financial services industry standards, and related products, for Know Your Customer, Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorist Financing policies:

In collaboration with Foley Hoag LLP, UNEP FI produced a research paper offering a legal analysis of the banking and human rights landscape:

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) published its Performance Standards on Environmental and Social Sustainability. The guidelines include topics relevant for financial sector's positive human rights practices such as labour and working conditions, land acquisition and involuntary resettlement or indigenous peoples' rights, as part of IFC's approach to risk management:


The UN supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) Initiative is an international network of investors working together to put the six Principles for Responsible Investment into practice, including on social issues and human rights:

The Institute for Human Rights and Business in association with Calvert Investments and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility has produced a guide that illustrates how investors can effectively integrate human rights into investment decision-making and corporate engagement:

The Investor Alliance for Human Rights, an initiative of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, is a collective action platform connecting institutional investors with tools and strategies to promote corporate respect for human rights:

The OECD Guidelines on Responsible business conduct for institutional investors provide key considerations in undertaking due diligence for the implementation of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises:


The CRO Forum's Emerging Risks Initiative (ERI) was launched in 2005 to raise awareness of major emerging risks relevant to society and the (re)insurance industry. The ERI series on managing environmental, social and governance challenges in business transactions includes one paper dedicated to human rights:

Banks’ human rights policies & practice

Examples of human rights policies and practices of banks across regions:

Africa and the Middle East

Garanti Bank, Turkey

Guaranty Trust Bank, Nigeria

Nedbank, South Africa

Standard Bank Group, Nigeria

Yapi Kredi, Turkey

Asia Pacific

ANZ, Australia & New Zealand

Commonwealth Bank, Australia

Mizuho, Japan

Shinhan Financial Group, South Korea

Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, Japan

Westpac, Australia


ABN AMRO, Netherlands

Barclays, United Kingdom

BBVA Group, Spain

BNP Paribas, France (in French)

Crédit Suisse, Switzerland

Deutsche Bank, Germany

ING, Netherlands

KBC, Belgium

Rabobank, Netherlands (p.30)

RBS, Scotland

Société Générale, France (in French)

Swedbank, Sweden

UniCredit, Italy

Latin America and the Caribbean

Banco General, Panama (in Spanish) (p.32)

Bradesco, Brazil

Findeter, Colombia (in Spanish)

Itaú, Brazil

Santander, Brazil

North America

Citi, United States

Scotiabank, Canada

TD Bank, Canada


December 2014     United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative