Today is International Human Rights Day and yes, you may be wondering why a news site dedicated to small business, entrepreneurs and start-ups is publishing specifically on this issue. Nearly seven years ago when I took the helm of one of the largest employment company's in the world I discovered something that quite literally shocked me. Even though we were responsible for the employment of millions over the decades we ourselves had no functioning human rights policies or internal procedures that we could follow in case a problem arose.
It was also around 2009 that the business was facing incredibly large challenges with the advent of the global financial crisis in western economies and major workforce and labour decisions needed to be made. Running alongside this was the rise of the sustainability sector and more of a focus on the business side of everything from human rights, indigenous affairs, the environment and the fight against corruption. We turned to the United Nations Global Compact to help us transition into what all of this meant for our business partly to educate ourselves so we knew what we needed to deal with and how when it came to these areas.
In the years that followed I was a member of the initial working group that established a United Nations Global Compact Local Network in Australia and then served as the Australian Representative to the UNGC from 2010 to 2013. During that time we reached out to thousands of people and organisations to advocate they too come on this journey. Why? because it was on the one hand bad for business to be doing things that would be objectionable to the average consumer in the street and on the other because as business we have the ability to influence change.
In 2013 I stepped up and became a member of the global board of the UNGC having been appointed by the Secretary General. So, you could say I have seen some things. I have spoken at countless events dealing with human rights from those involving indigenous peoples, those living with disabilities, the empowerment of women and girls, religious tolerance and gender equality. What I have learnt is that we all have a long way to go.
Today, as it stands, we have tens of millions of people displaced by war and conflict right across the world. People with disabilities are still discriminated against when it comes to employment and it is obscene that in a modern world many indigenous peoples around the world are treated as second class citizens in nations they inhabited long before others arrived.
It is wrong to think that human rights is something that happens only in someone elses country or in the developed world. It is universal issue that requires a local, regional and international response and these are the things we can all do, each day, to ensure we are doing the right thing - because as I have said - if we don't it is bad for business:
Make sure your business has a human rights policy and that your employees from management down understand it
Make sure your suppliers understand that you won't be buying something from them if it is found to be manufactured by employees who are paid below what would be called an acceptable living wage
Do an audit on your workplace to ensure it is a disability friendly working environment
Advocate change within your local communities and business groups - spread the message that abuse of human rights is bad for business
Check what you are paying your people - if it appears that a female employee is being paid less for doing the same job as a male - change it. Ensure you have pay parity
These are simple things that you can do that will enable you to build a business that is part of the community, of the community and not just asking the community to buy from you. From a commercial perspective these things can create competitive advantage for your business so think about that when considering a return on investment model.
So, why is EntreHub publishing on this issue? Because when I founded this organisation I did so to ensure that the next generation of business leaders, entrepreneurs and business knew what it meant to behave with a combined social and commercial perspective. This is the power of change - realising that when we can hold those of us to account or advocate a position that is positive then we should.
About the Author: Matthew Tukaki is the founder and editor of EntreHub. He served as Australias Representative to the United Nations Global Compact between 2010-13 and was elected to Chair that organisations Network Advisory Group in 2013. In May of 2013 he was appointed by the United Nations Secretary General to the Governing Board of the UNGC. Matthew is currently Chairman of Deakin University CSaRO and the International Advisory Board of the joint intiative between the University of Sydney and the National Science Foundation of the United States. He is the former Head of Drake International (AU, ASIA) and the Chairman of both Splacsh Marketing and the WorkWise Group.
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