We recently spoke to Lindiwe Mokate, Commissioner for the South African Human Rights Commission about the drivers behind the trend towards more responsible business practices and what the role of business, investors, civil society and government are in this regard*.
How do you feel expectations for responsible business have changed over the past 10 years?
Increasingly businesses are required to pay attention to communities, the environment and ethical considerations.
What factors and incentives do you feel have been the most significant in driving the adoption of responsible behaviours?
Increased access to information, advocacy, increased transparency and accountability through reporting, technological advancement such as the internet and social media as well as improved regulatory frameworks in certain countries requiring responsible corporate governance. There is also a growing awareness of the correlation between reputational credibility and business success.
What frameworks do you feel are most effective in promoting responsible practices? What should the respective roles of business, government and civil society be?
Normative standards at different levels and United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights as well as certain domestic frameworks supplemented by self-regulation on the part of business such as the Code of Corporate Governance. Governments must adopt standards to ensure respect, promotion and fulfilment of human rights and businesses must respect and promote human rights. Civil society should raise awareness and monitor implementation.
What are your views on recent developments in responsible business and its governance?
Recently, the development of Children’s Rights and Business Principles has strengthened the acknowledgement of children as rights holders and accountability through integrated corporate reporting on sustainability.
What are you currently working on?
During the Annual International Mining Indaba I hosted a human rights event as well as roundtables on Business and Human Rights and Children’s Rights and Principles. I co-produced a country guide on business and human rights and launched a toolkit monitoring disability rights in the workplace.
*Please note that the views expressed above are of the speaker and not of Chatham House.