By Joanna Bourke Martignoni and Elizabeth Umlas. Geneva: Geneva Academy. 2018.

The UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights (UNGPs) make a key contribution to the implementation of human rights guarantees through their definition of the concept of human rights due diligence (HRDD), which directs companies to “identify, prevent, mitigate and account for” their adverse human rights impact.

Companies are part of the social fabric wherever they operate and they influence policies, economies, legal, social and cultural norms and practices. With this power come responsibilities for business to ensure that they are not doing harm by engaging in direct or indirect gender discrimination and that they are using their role to actively promote equality within and outside of the workplace. For this reason, approaches to HRDD need to do more than refer to gender equality and women’s human rights as items to be ticked off a generic checklist. They must fully integrate gender-responsive practices within each area of their business operations. Gender-responsive due diligence is deeper than “putting a gender lens on”.

This study aims to map the contours of business due diligence responsibilities and the way in which these articulate with international human rights standards on gender equality and non-discrimination. It is hoped that the findings may prove useful for the process of reflection concerning the integration of a gender perspective within the UNGPs that was launched by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights in 2017. The Working Group’s development of additional guidance for stakeholders concerning the ways in which they could integrate a gender analysis within their national and international implementation of the UNGPs is a necessary and timely initiative.

This briefing is the result of a research project on Human rights and gender equality in the context of business activities conducted at the Geneva Academy. Inputs in the section on land-based agricultural investments are in part based on the DEMETER research.

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