4th Quarterly, 2005 No.138

Executive Summary

"Current Initiatives for the Establishment of Human Rights in Business Enterprises ? with Cases of 70 Different Enterprises"

Kayoung Lee (Researcher, BLHRRI)

Today, Corporations are encouraged to practice CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). While a number of different areas are implied within this concept, that of human rights is always enumerated as one of them. For example, the United Nations' Global Compact incorporates the three areas of human rights, labor, and the environment on which enterprises are challenged to work. Also in Japan, some research bodies build human rights into the standards from which personal and institutional investors can select.

However, upon investigation, we have identified a number of problems with these standards. For example, the quantitative restrictions of the "Triple Bottom Line", a weak common understanding of human rights problems, lack of consideration for the Buraku Problem, and problems attaining a quantitative grasp on human rights problems, etc. Nevertheless, despite these difficulties, we believe it is important to build a comprehensive standard for human rights in CSR.

In this respect, we at the Buraku Liberation and Human Rights Research Institute created and used an Index for Corporate Human Rights Practice to execute a preliminary survey with the cooperation of members of the Osaka Industrial Federation of Dowa and Human Rights Problems in 2004. This report summarizes the results of that survey.

Part 1 examines the development of CSR in the current day and the significance of human rights within its development from the viewpoint of placing human rights in a CSR index.

Chapter 1 of Part 2, "A trial CSR human

rights survey and the main characteristics of the results," analyses the findings in the light of the management system's so-called PDCA Cycle (plan, do, check, and act). The following positive results were discovered:

- Many office documents, such as management ethical codes, contain the idea of respect for human rights;
- Many surveyed companies have intra-office systems and elect a person in charge of human rights issues.
- Many companies practice positive employment of socially vulnerable groups
- such as people of Buraku origin, Korean residents, and single mothers etc.
- Companies each clarify their own problems in any issue areas.
- Furthermore, we discovered a variety of best practice policies for human rights.

However, some negative results were also discovered:

- Progress in the construction of the management cycle can be seen within the business ethics framework, but in the area of human rights in particular the plan, check and act aspects of the PDCA cycle are weak.
- Weaknesses were seen in the overall direction of human rights practice.
- There are a few enterprises that adopt measures concerning international human rights issues.
- Information about human rights is not broadcast any great extent.

In Chapter 2 of Part 2, we examine individual human rights issues.

Section 1 outlines the profiles of companies that answered our questionnaire. 70 enterprises in total cooperated with the preliminary survey. 90% of these are companies whose capital scale is more than 500 million yen. 70% have more than 1,000 employees. Most of the responding companies can therefore be classes as "Big Business".

Section 2 examines the development of the intra-office human rights system. Generally, most companies have devised a business ethics policy specifying respect for human rights, but only 40% declare respect for human rights in the locations where they develop overseas business. There are few companies where top-level management announces a message of respect for human rights.

Section 3 describes the conditions of equality between genders in enterprises. Generally speaking, there is severe gender bias in the employment policies of Japanese companies. There is a gap of four years in the average length of service between female employees and employees in general. However, some companies have introduced "positive action" for the purpose of realizing equal opportunities and treatment between genders. Furthermore, most companies have taken measures to prevent sexual harassment.

Section 4 introduces actions taken by companies to remove barriers for the disabled. Japanese legislation for the promotion of employment for the disabled prescribes an obligatory employment rate of 1.8%. Half of the surveyed companies have achieved this rate, but only 23% have made their workplaces fully barrier-free.

As for Buraku issue, we found positive progress in Section 5. Human rights enlightenment activities in the workplace are practiced by more than 90% of surveyed enterprises, and more than 70% make efforts to ensure employment for socially vulnerable people. However, relatively few companies expressed commitment to fair employment activities.

In Section 6, we examined the working conditions and treatment of part-time and other irregular workers. Since the number of irregular workers is on the increase, the threat posed to the human rights of irregular workers by their working conditions is raised. A few companies are making efforts to realize the principle of paying the same wage to the same value of labor and to allow transition from irregular to regular work, but it is clear that there are still major differences between regular and irregular workers.

Section 7 examines actions that incorporate respect for human rights in management practice. 26% of surveyed companies offer goods or services that contribute to respect for human rights. 10% of companies include an item regarding respect for human rights in their procurement or business standards. These companies will never constitute a majority, but should be regarded as advanced companies in this area.

In Section 8, we consider co-operation with human rights NGOs. 50% of companies cooperate with NGOs on the Buraku issue, 20% on disability issues, and 11% on gender issues. Few companies cooperate with NGOs working with non-citizens or minorities living in Japan, or international human rights NGOs.

Lastly, we asked about information disclosure on human rights activities. 33% of surveyed companies have already devised policy documents covering information disclosure, but there are few companies disclosing information through any medium in the area of human rights.

We believe that a wider and more comprehensive survey must be carried out. We therefore intend to seek cooperation to improve the quality of the index and further contribute to the promotion of human rights activities in Japanese companies.

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