Businesses are increasingly required to demonstrate sound understanding and good practice around human rights standards and wider social issues, both in managing their risks and impacts, and as an indicator of good corporate responsibility.

The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, unanimously endorsed by the Human Rights Council in 2011, emphasize that while governments have a duty to protect human rights, business enterprises have a responsibility to respect human rights. The Sustainable Development Goals also have as core aim to “realize the human rights of all”, encompassing civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. At the same time, they strive to reduce inequality, promote equity and inclusion. “Human rights and equity” are one of the four principles underpinning UN Environment approach to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Since 2006, UNEP FI has been exploring the intricacies between human rights and the finance sector. UNEP FI aims to de-mystify the jargon surrounding the social agenda, and clarify how human rights and wider social issues relate to the activities of finance institutions. To date, work has focused on creating dialogue around finance and human rights and developing guidance for financial institutions on how to address their human rights impacts. Increasingly, the work will expand into highlighting and consolidating the linkages between the environment and human rights issues in promoting a sustainable finance approach, as well as addressing social risks and opportunities in a holistic manner. This will include promoting equity and inclusion as a strong component of the transition towards a just, green economy.


  • Practitioners share insights on community engagement and indigenous peoples’ rights

    Together with AFD and IADB, UNEP FI took stock of standards, industry practice and barriers to address on sustainable finance and community engagement, with a focus on indigenous peoples’ rights and the implementation of the free, prior and informed consent principle. BNP Paribas (France), Citi (US), International Development Corporation (South Africa) and Financiera Nacional de […]

  • Regional dialogues on rights-based, inclusive sustainable finance

    UNEP FI members and stakeholders discussed the current trends and expectations relating to financial institutions’ responsibility to respect human rights and their ability to address burning social issues at a series of regional dialogues on finance and human rights. These were organized as part of 2017 UNEP FI Roundtables for Sustainable Finance in Buenos Aires, […]

  • UNEP FI shapes its strategy on social issues

    Building on ten years of efforts to advance the finance and human rights agenda with its members, UNEP FI is now strengthening its social issues approach to mainstream human rights across UNEP FI industry and thematic activities, enhance guidance for finance practitioners on human rights risks and enhance synergies with peer initiatives to maximize impact. […]

  • Users feedback wanted on UNEP FI Guidance Tool on Human Rights

    The online Guidance Tool on Human Rights for the Finance Sector is UNEP FI’s trusted tool to assist lenders in enhancing their understanding of human rights risks. In an effort to improve the user-friendliness of the tool, UNEP FI is inviting members and concerned parties to contact the Secretariat with feedback on user experience.  

  • 2016 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights: Key Messages from UNEP FI

    UNEP FI shares its report with takeaways from the 2016 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, which took place in Geneva on 14-16th November. The Forum tackled the role of finance with regard to human rights as one of its focus topics, under the global theme ‘Leadership and Leverage: Embedding human rights in the rules […]

  • UNEP FI – Foley Hoag LLP research paper contributes to a better understanding of banking and human rights

    Foley Hoag LLP and UNEP FI collaborated on a research paper offering a legal analysis of the current banking and human rights landscape. The paper provides an overview of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and explores their implications for the banking sector. It examines both hard law and soft law […]

  • Workshop on banking and human rights for ASEAN-region banks (By invitation only)

    Join us on a virtual introductory workshop on banking and human rights issues for ASEAN banks. It will include an overview of human rights issues related to businesses in ASEAN and how this relates to banks under both hard and soft laws; how banks in the region are tackling human rights; and a live exercise to develop an ASEAN human rights risk heatmap with the help of experts. The workshop is side event of the UN Virtual Forum on Responsible Business and Human Rights, 9-12 June.

  • Human Rights and Finance: next steps for EU Policy

    ShareAction and partners organize a discussion at the European Parliament on the means to ensure a strong role for human rights in the future of European financial regulation, in the context of the upcoming European Commission’s Sustainable Action Plan. UNEP FI engages is dialogue on the role of human rights due diligence in the legal duties of investors and company directors.

  • Social inclusion and human rights in finance: a view from Asia Pacific

    The meeting looked at how financial institutions, in addition to applying human rights due diligence in their business, tackled social issues specific to the region. It also highlighted global trends from the finance and human rights agenda to inform local financial institutions in their approaches to human rights issues, and introduced the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB), developed in 2017 with strong support from investors as a tool enabling businesses to better understand and act on corporate human rights performance.

  • Webinar: Stakeholder Engagement in Sustainable Finance – Indigenous Peoples Rights and Free, Prior and Informed Consent

    The webinar, organized jointly by Agence française de développement, the Inter-American Development Bank and UNEP Finance Initiative, will take a glimpse into the current landscape of standards and practices related to indigenous peoples’ rights and stakeholder engagement, with a focus on the free, prior and informed consent principle. It will also consider barriers to the principle implementation and solutions to address them. It will be set up as a platform of knowledge exchange between industry representatives and human rights experts working with indigenous groups and on stakeholder engagement in business.

  • Regional dialogue, Europe: A Rights-Based Approach to Sustainable Finance

    Since the unanimous endorsement of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), various stakeholder groups – businesses, civil society, intergovernmental platforms – have been working on clarifying the practical implications of the ‘responsibility to respect human rights’ for financial institutions. At the same time, in their journey to sustainability, financial institutions are increasingly showing willingness to contribute to the achievement of global priorities such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. How do these efforts come together in a coherent human rights-aligned sustainable finance agenda? The session provided an overview of industry efforts from the region to advance the implementation of the UNGPs and discussed how to connect – from a human rights perspective – the various sustainability-driven actions of financial institutions, to ultimately arrive at an inclusive, rights-based sustainable finance agenda.

  • Sustainable Finance and Indigenous Peoples Rights (private meeting)
  • Human rights and social issues in finance: from global to regional solutions

    The first UNEP FI meeting on human rights and social issues in Latin America and the Caribbean offered a platform for members in the region – Banco General, Banco Galicia, Suramericana and Itaú Unibanco – to share experiences on their approaches to respect human rights and act on their ability to further address social needs. Participants were also introduced to the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB), that UNEP FI has teamed up to share the findings of the benchmark, released in 2017.  Finally, regional members and stakeholders were informed about UNEP FI strategic priorities on human rights and social issues for the upcoming years, and were encouraged to give feedback on available options to adapt these to regional needs.

  • 2016 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights

    14-16 November 2016 | Geneva

    The UN Forum on Business and Human Rights is the leading global event on business and human rights, gathering each year some 2,300 participants from government, business, civil society, law firms, UN bodies, academia and the media.

    The Forum focused this year on “Leadership and Leverage: Embedding human rights in the rules and relationships that drive the global economy.” It addressed the role of financial institutions in respect to human rights as one of its three main focus areas.

  • Investing in Stability – Conflict Risk, Markets and the Bottom-Line

    5 September 2003 | London