Based on international law, human rights can transcend national and cultural borders. When making important decisions & resolving conflict situations, international law always puts human rights first. The subjective element, in turn, is excluded and replaced by internationally agreed standards suitable for corporate management & decision making. This type of ethical system can help companies increase the level of trust between them & their customers & employees. Also, using this model of human rights can contribute to the formation of valuable social capital.
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What Does the Protection of Human Rights Entail?
Managing a company implies that human rights are higher than the company’s business interests. Therefore, when an individual is affected by the company’s decision, their rights must be taken into account by holding negotiations and consultations.
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As far as directors are concerned, they must act in good faith & in the interests of their company. The director should also be aware of human rights standards and take them into account in the performance of their duties. They should be familiar with the basics of the business in which their company is involved, constantly informing its shareholders about the company’s activities. Companies that take into account the interests and rights of the individual in their business practices can be confident in the correctness and justification of their decisions.
Undoubtedly, corporate governance should not be based solely on the interests of shareholders & maximization of their wealth. However, the human rights-based method that underlies the company's management code should take into account the interests of shareholders along with the interests of other interested parties.
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Human Rights in the Context of Companies’ Ethical Conduct
Nowadays, quite a few companies do not meet the standards & expectations associated with human rights. In particular, the following aspects are frequently violated:
- integrity & openness
- provision of fair & professional services
- consideration of clients’ interests
- law abidance
The phrase "law abidance" may seem trivial, but in fact this is not always the case. Being law obedient in and of itself requires the company to make a simple statement that it intends to apply laws that govern corporate relations in a targeted manner consistent with human rights principles.
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Today, the wrong corporate culture can become a basis for liability. Under the criminal codes of many countries, ethical culture can be a factor in sentencing. This in turn should encourage decision makers to ask the question: who is affected by this decision & does it have a positive or negative effect? If they are negative, is it possible to prevent this effect? And if not, should this activity, operation, service or transaction be continued?
If these issues are not addressed at the early stage of decision-making, even if the decision is legal, then further development of the company, its sustainability, brand & reputation can be at risk.
Honesty & Openness
If corporate culture, policies, guidelines, procedures and corporate decision-making processes are based on the principles of respect for human rights and all stakeholders, then it will be possible to create a policy of transparency & accountability. This approach can be seen in the context of the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises, according to which the company should not engage in activities that are deceiving or misleading its customers or employees.
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As far as observing human rights is concerned, making a decision requires taking into account all interested parties who may be affected by this decision. Is this decision verified by the company? Will it unfairly influence one group of stakeholders in favor of another?
However, in some cases, the “injustice” of a decision can also be caused due to human rights considerations. For example, this may apply to restrictions on the freedom of expression of some people for the sake of protecting the security of other people.
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