The Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA), an autonomous institution under the aegis of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India, has initiated a new cadre of Business and Human Rights (BHR) Professionals in the country. In a Curtain Raiser Event held yesterday of the programme for creating and developing Business and Human Rights Professionals, IICA formally disseminated the importance and relevance of BHR leaders and professionals in the country.
Secretary General of, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Shri Devendra Kumar Singh was the Chief Guest of the event. The event was also addressed by Shri Sean Christopher Lees, BHR Specialist, UNDP Asia Pacific, Bangkok; Shri Praveen Kumar, Director General and CEO, Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA); Shri Inderdeep Singh Dhariwal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Govt. of India; Shri Gyaneshwar Kumar Singh, Joint Secretary, National Commission for Scheduled Caste, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Govt. of India; Shri R. Mukundan, Managing Director & CEO, Tata Chemicals Ltd.; and Dr. Garima Dadhich, Head, Centre for Business & Human Rights, IICA.
Addressing the gathering, Shri Devendra Kumar Singh, Secretary General of, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said that principles of social justice like Access, Equity, Diversity, Participation, and Human Rights are important goals in any civilised society. Our constitution and democratic structure significantly accord a system for social justice to all citizens. He also mentioned that India had signed Universal Declaration on Human Rights and also endorsed the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. As the whole gamut of human rights is an important component, he emphasised the need for creating a cadre of BHR Professionals in India.
He said that Trained manpower is the need of the hour and IICA under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs has taken timely initiatives to cater for the needs of transformation in industries through building capacities of the corporate functionaries in Business and Human Rights. He shared that NHRC follows the human-centric approach and a mandate of ‘Let everybody be happy’ which is also the G-20 motto. He also highlighted the trusteeship principle of Mahatma Gandhi and the welfare of the people. He informed me about some of the initiatives of NHRC in different sectors relevant to BHR such as advisory for truck drivers, differently-abled, etc. He stressed exploring more synergies between NHRC and IICA to strengthen the BHR agenda in the country.
Shri Praveen Kumar, DG&CEO, IICA said that IICA being an eminent Govt. institute focuses on the multiple areas of corporate affairs and the School of Business Environment at IICA has launched this unique first-of-its-kind programme on Business and Human Rights to help corporate professionals build specific knowledge and capabilities to translate human rights requirements into concrete strategies and practical actions. He said that ‘Purpose before profit’ is a new vision given to businesses. Businesses should see that their policies, practices, inputs and outputs are beneficial to multiple stakeholders. He shared that the School of Business Environment, IICA has been playing an important role in providing technical policy inputs in drafting the National Action Plan on BHR, National Guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct, Business Responsibility and Sustainability Reporting, High-Level Committee on CSR etc.
Shri Sean Christopher Lees, BHR Specialist, UNDP Asia Pacific, emphasised that Increasing demands from business stakeholders, international treaties, and national regulations have forced businesses to follow a way that is sustainable for both profits and the planet. He narrated his experience of BHR policies and implementation in various countries in the Asia-Pacific region. He also emphasized that India is in a progressive stage of achieving economic targets as well as targets of sustainable development, hence a balanced approach on both fronts will lead the country to a sustainable future. He said that industrialization globally and in India has played a vital role in technological and economic growth, and such growth has posed unique types of concerns in realizing Human Rights within the sphere of business.
Dr Garima Dadhich, Head School of Business Environment, IICA said that by integrating business and human rights in business policies and practices, a business house receives a competitive advantage in yesterday’s edge of responsibility, it also helps to prevent and mitigate associated risks for social sustainability. She expressed that the ‘IICA Certified BHR Professional Programme’ is the first of its kind in India. While addressing various objectives of the programme, she emphasised that the BHR is not only meant for sustainability professionals but is equally important for human resource professionals, procurement and supply chain professional, vigilance & ethics etc.
Integration of BHR in business as well as in its value chain is equally important. Increasing pressure from multiple stakeholders including investors, buyers, consumers, shareholders etc. pose an unwritten mandate on businesses to adopt business and human rights principles and practices. By adopting BHR, businesses also fulfil requirements under various national and international standards. She highlighted the need for Business and Human Rights globally and nationally for businesses and how this programme is uniquely designed and developed to bridge the gap in implementing BHR practices.
Mr Inderdeep Singh Dhariwal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Govt. of India, said that the Government of India has taken several initiatives to ensure that businesses operate with respect for human rights. As the Ministry of Corporate Affairs is the regulatory authority of corporates and promotes “Business and Human Rights” in India. MCA has always been focused towards promoting sustainable business and inclusive growth.
To ensure responsible governance, MCA has been amending the company’s activities from time to time keeping in view the present corporate scenarios and the expectations from the corporates which include their responsibility to respect the environment and society. The Government has drafted the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (NAP-BHR) and has also launched the National Guidelines for Responsible Business Conduct (NGRBC). He said that the average life of a corporate is shrinking due to several internal and external factors, and business and human rights is one of them. He highlighted the philosophy of human rights for businesses in terms of treating all human beings equally.
Mr R. Mukundan, Managing Director & CEO, of Tata Chemicals Ltd., Spoke on business risk mitigation by integrating BHR in business policies and practices, he mainly emphasized various international and national mandatory and voluntary compliance requirements and the need for corporate executive capacity building. Business and Human Rights related disclosures under the UNGC, GRI, NGRBC, and BRSR etc. are of utmost importance for a business to not only carry an image of a responsible business among its stakeholders but also to ensure social sustainability.
yesterday, various stakeholders of businesses like investors, consumers, communities, shareholders etc. demand businesses be responsible and avoid human rights violations, and take measures to protect and respect human rights. He said that making mere disclosures may not be considered transparency, disclosures are only one of the components of transparency. He stressed that businesses may not be perfect in their initiatives yesterday, but they have to go through the journey of continuous improvement collectively. Such initiatives by IICA are designed to help businesses practising BHR and become more responsible.
The event was attended by about 150 senior corporate officials enrolled in the programmes.; Dr Ravi Raj Atrey, Chief Programme Executive, IICA; and Ms Sudha Rajagopalan were also present among the other dignitaries. A vote of thanks was delivered by Ms Nusrat Khan, BHR National Specialist, UNDP India, she highlighted the collaboration between UNDP, the European Union and the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs for promoting BHR through corporate capacity building initiatives.
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