Business and human rights: from principles to practice

Richard Karmel, Partner at Mazars in the UK, will take part as a speaker to the European Development Day in Brussels, Belgium on June 4th to discuss “Business and Human Rights: from principles to practice - Two innovative tools for compliance and reporting”.

This session brings together AVSI Foundation, an Italian NGO active in 30 developing countries, and Mazars. Both have led initiatives to advance the respect of human rights within business in the profound belief that the profit and not-for-profit sectors can collaborate successfully for sustainable development.

In today’s ever more transparent world, companies are under increasing pressure to show that they respect human rights throughout their operations and value chains. This means demonstrating that they are not harming the fundamental dignity and welfare of people as they go about their legitimate work and generate the jobs, wealth and growth that benefit all societies.

Since 2011 when the UN unanimously endorsed the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, companies have an authoritative global standard that sets out their responsibilities. Governments, stock exchanges and investors are increasingly requiring companies to report on their performance on human rights related issues, from the European Union, to the US, to India, to Brazil.

Companies have also promoted self–regulatory processes to address the different interests of their stakeholders.

But skepticism on the efficacy of self-regulation persists. Meanwhile a growing number of NGOs and CSOs reaffirm the incompatibility of interest and culture between the business community and sustainable growth.

During this session Mazars and AVSI will present the innovative tools and processes that they have developed independently to enable companies to begin reporting on their human rights performance, regardless of size or how far they have progressed in implementing their responsibility to respect human rights.

By helping companies both improve their transparency and accountability for human rights issues, and analyze and enhance their management of human rights impacts, the proposed tools have the potential to positively impact on millions of peoples’ lives.

The UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework, developed by MAZARS and SHIFT, is the first comprehensive guidance for companies to report on human rights issues in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Framework is available for free for everybody at

The paper “Business and Human Rights: a challenge for enterprises”, resulting for a collaboration of AVSI with the University of Rome Tor Vergata, analyses over 300 case studies and proposes a due diligence method with a focus on SMEs.

This brainstorming lab aims to: a) contribute to the ongoing dialogue on sustainability and bridge the gap between the corporate sector and the ongoing challenges within the developing world; b) encourage mature dialogue between civil society, NGOs and businesses, reflecting that they typically have more to gain from collaboration than from confrontation; c) enhance knowledge of new tools and processes that companies can use to improve their behaviour, transparency and accountability.

Our objective is to set out how companies must look to understand their responsibilities to respect human rights, and how they articulate their resulting expectations to their workforce, subsidiaries, business partners and other entities directly linked to their operations, products or services.

We aim to improve the quality of non-financial reporting of companies in the area of human rights. This should result in embedding this key issue into their culture and risk management processes.

Ultimately, our desire is to reduce the number of corporate abuses of human rights and to act as a catalyst for change in the way companies behave and their global respect for human rights.


  • Richard Karmel, Partner and Head of Global Business And Human Rights practice, Mazars
  • Giampaolo Silvestri, AVSI Secretary General
  • Prof. Alessandro Costa, Expert in International Law and International Cooperation, University Rome Tor Vergata
  • Marina Migliorato, Head of CSR - Innovation and Sustainability, ENEL (TBC),  Human rights lawyer, Doughty Street Chamber EC – DG GROW  or DG DEVCO  
  • Caroline Rees, President and CEO, SHIFT (video message)

Moderator: Richard Howitt, MEP, spokesman for the SD Group on Human Rights issues and Foreign Affairs European Parliament Rapporteur on Corporate Social Responsibility and President of the All-Party Disability Rights Group of MEPs