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.


5 May 2022

Dates for the UNEP FI Global Roundtable 2022 announced

UNEP FI’s 17th Global Roundtable (GRT), a major global agenda-setting event on sustainable finance, will take place virtually on 10-14 October 2022. Held under the theme of “Transforming Finance, Accelerating Change”, this online event will bring together decision-makers, experts and thought leaders on a virtual event platform to help shape approaches to integrating sustainability across…

2-4 March 2021 | Webinar

Integrating Human Rights into Risk Management: With Thai Govt Pension Fund and Thai Stock Exchange

For investors (institutional investors and asset managers), banks, financial regulators, other financial industry actors, and corporates in Thailand and in the region. The session guides participants in developing their understanding of what is human rights, what are some of the infringements seen in business activities in Thailand and internationally, and what are the best practices by investors and banks to protect human rights.

23 January 2018

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…

23 January 2018

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,…

3 March 2017

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.…

15 February 2017

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.  

1 February 2017

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…

12 June 2020 | Webinar

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.

22 February 2018 | Brussels, Belgium

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.

12 December 2017 | Tokyo, Japan

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.

5 December 2017 | Webinar

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.

17 October 2017 | Geneva, Switzerland

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.

6 September 2017 | Buenos Aires, Argentina

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.

CEO Briefing on Human Rights

This Briefing clarifies how human rights relate to the activities of financial institutions and develops practical tools and guidance that can be used by the sector to better assess and manage its human rights-related risks.