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Measuring Business & Human Rights


New blog series on measuring implementation of UN Guiding Principles on business & human rights


On 1 December 2014, MB&HR lead the main event "Ranking business and human rights: The potential of benchmarking corporate respect for human rights" at the UN Forum on business and human rights in Geneva.  The event was organised in collaboration with the UN Working Group on business and human rights. The panel was chaired by Damiano De Felice (co-director of MB&HR). Speakers included: Wim Leereveld (Access to Medicine Index); Erinch Sahan (Oxfam’s Behind the Brands Scorecard); Rebecca MacKinnon (Ranking Digital Rights); Steve Waygood (Human Rights Performance Benchmark); Ann Sofie Cloots (MB&HR); Gerbrand Haverkamp (Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs); Rachel Cowburn-Walden (Unilever) and Peter Webster (EIRIS).

Click here to download the leaflet of the event Ranking Business and Human Rights.

On 25 November 2014 MB&HR launched its first Initiative Card on the 'Children's Rights in Impact Assessment' tool (UNICEF & Danish Institute for Human Rights).  The research conducted in the initiative card provides a description and analysis of the specific characteristics of the measurement initiative such as the scope of the tool; the applied methodology; general analysis of indicators; and the level of transparency, accessibility and stakeholder participation.This card has been prepared by Charline Daelman, Co-Director MB&HR.

Click here to download the Initiative Card on Children Rights Impact Assessment.       

For a more detailed description of the MB&HR project click here.


Measuring Business & Human Rights is a research project that aims to advance the capacity of business managers and corporate stakeholders to assess the extent to which companies meet their responsibility to respect human rights. The project has the endorsement of the UN Working Group on business and human rights and it is led by Ann-Sofie Cloots (Cambridge Univ.), Charline Daelman (KU Leuven), Damiano de Felice (LSE) and Irene Pietropaoli (Middlesex Univ.).

The international endorsement of the UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights has spurred widespread interest among different actors (corporate managers, auditors, investors, government officials, human rights advocates) in how to measure whether and how much companies are meeting their responsibility to respect human rights.  Even though indicators, ratings and benchmarks are proliferating, the production of valid and reliable measurement tools of corporate respect for human rights poses a number of concerns and risks.  For instance, it is not easy to assess and compare the incisiveness of due diligence processes or the severity of human rights impacts.  Quantifying specific aspects of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights might also give unwarranted prominence to easily measurable – but not necessarily more important – issues.

Measuring Business & Human Rights takes these concerns and risks seriously. In particular, the project will (1) explore the most pressing normative, methodological, practical and political challenges when producing business and human rights indicators, and suggest realistic strategies to create valid measurement tools; (2) offer a transparent and comprehensive database of information on existing organizations, tools and initiatives using business and human rights indicators; (3) host a blog as a public forum for an open discussion on how to improve the way corporate respect for human rights is measured. The project will confirm the validity of its findings in two "laboratories", specifically dedicated to an industry sector (private security companies) and a vulnerable group (children’s rights).  The objective of the project is to move the discussion forward, from the if (can we measure respect for human rights by corporations?) to the how (how to produce valid and reliable information?).

This webpage hosts:

  • the most important research outputs of the project, such as discussion papers and articles;
  • the analyses of the most important measurement initiatives that feature business and human rights indicators, including management tools (such as the GoodCorporation Framework on Human Rights), reporting guidelines (such as the Reporting and Assurance Framework Initiative), sustainability investment indices (such as FTSE4Good), sustainability ratings (such as the Behind the Brands Scorecard), (5) sustainability standards, multi-stakeholder initiatives and certification schemes (such as the audit protocol to assess compliance with the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights), and (6) human rights impact assessment tools (such as NomoGaia's toolkit for practitioners);
  • a link to the Measuring Business & Human Rights’ blog, an open platform to freely discuss the most important challenges in producing valid and reliable measurement tools for corporate respect for human rights;
  • a list of the major events where project representatives present its findings.

For a more detailed description of the project click here 

Analysis of measurement initiatives

A representative list of initiatives and tools featuring business & human rights indicators is available here (updated 12 Nov). 

If you are aware of any relevant initiative which is not included in this list, please feel free to let us know by writing to Irene Pietropaoli.

Blog & Commentaries

Blog on Measuring Business & Human Rights

Is Reporting Child's Play?, Adrian Henriques, Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, 29 Sep 2015

Reporting parameters and children rights, Valerie Michel, Rosy Blue NV, 27 July 2015

Commentary analyses challenges of measuring corporate respect for human rights, Damiano de Felice, Access to Medicines Index, on OECD Insights, 19 Jun 2015

"Company Responses to Human Rights Reports as an Indicator of Compliance with Human Rights Responsibilities", Menno T. Kamminga, Maastricht University, 26 May 2015 

"The use of human rights indicators to monitor private security companies operations", Irene Pietropaoli, co-Director Measuring Business & Human Rights and PhD candidate at the Law school of Middlesex University, London, 21 Nov. 2014

"How can we decide whether fashion brands MeasureUp?", Eve Norridge, MeasureUp, 21 July 2014

"Measuring the Impact of Business on Children's Rights", Charline Daelman, KU Leuven, 18 July 2014

Ranking Digital Rights: How can and should ICT sector companies respect Internet users’ rights to freedom of expression and privacy?
Rebecca MacKinnon (Ranking Digital Rights, New America Foundation), 18 June 2014 

Showing respect for human rights in state-investor contracts: Guidance and assessment tool for company negotiators
Nora Götzmann (Danish Institute for Human Rights & Univ. of Queensland), 12 June 2014

Setting a Children’s Rights Benchmark for the Corporate Sector
Magdalena Kettis, Global Child Forum, 13 May 2014

Measuring corporate respect for human rights
MB&HR team, on Lawyers for Better Business (L4BB) blog, 28 Apr 2014

How do you get an industry moving in the right direction? The Access to Medicine Index
Wim Leereveld, Access to Medicine Foundation, 25 Apr 2014

Measuring the effectiveness of grievance mechanisms: Between key performance indicators and engagement with affected stakeholders
Damiano de Felice, LSE, 11 Apr 2014

The importance of outcome indicators and iterative engagement with rightsholders
Kendyl Salcito & Mark Wielga, NomoGaia, 24 Mar 2014

A year later, Big 10 improving but more is needed
Erinch Sahan, Oxfam GB, 19 Mar 2014

Key performance indicators and the Working Group on business and human rights
Michael Addo, UN Working Group on Business & Human Rights, 14 Mar 2014

The potential of measuring business and human rights
Phil Bloomer, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, 12 Mar 2014

No more reporting standards: Please
Dan Bross, Microsoft, 12 Mar 2014

Investors and human rights
Bennett Freeman, Calvert Investments, 12 Mar 2014

Measuring business respect for human rights: How do we promote legitimacy?
Richard Howitt MEP, European Parliament Rapporteur on Corporate Social Responsibility, 12 March 2014

Developing Business and Human Rights Indicators – Is It a Good Idea?
Nadia Bernaz (Middlesex University), Rights as Usual, 7 Oct 2013

[Español¿Es posible crear indicadores estandarizados que midan los impactos de las empresas en los derechos humanos?
Maria Prandi (Business Human Rights, Spain) & Irene Pietropaoli (Middlesex University London), para Diario Responsable (España), 31 octubre 2013



  • On 7 October 2013, the project convened the Cumberland Colloquium "Measuring the Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights" in Windsor (UK) to present the first report and collect the initial views of a diverse group of 65 experts. The Colloquium was made possible thanks to the financial support of Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development, Sustainalytics, The British Academy, KPMG, Regent’s University London, LSE Centre for the Study of Human Rights, the All Churches Trust and Cumberland Lodge. Several junior and senior researchers helped draft the discussion paper circulated prior to the Colloquium. The Keynote Speech was delivered by MEP Richard Howitt.
  • On 3 November 2013, the main findings of the Colloquium were presented at the International Conference on "The implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights in Spain", held in Sevilla from 4 to 6 November 2013. 
  • On 25 November 2013, an outline of the project was presented at a workshop co-hosted by Aviva Investors and the Institute for Business & Human Rights in London (UK).
  • On 2 December 2013, the preliminary findings of the research were presented during a side-event of the 2nd UN Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva (Switzerland).
  • On 5 December 2013, the project participated in a panel hosted by UNICEF, sharing insights on how to measure corporate respect for children’s rights.
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Commentary analyses challenges of measuring corporate respect for human rights

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