| 27.01.2021

SIHTI human rights report: There is a useful method for continuously evaluating corporate human rights responsibilities in Finland

There is a method for examining how Finnish companies are fulfilling their human rights responsibilities on a yearly basis.

This is one of the most important findings in the SIHTI project that examined how Finnish companies are fulfilling their human rights responsibilities in relation to expectations set out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.  

The research was carried out during 2020 by the Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration (Hanken), FIANT Consulting Oy, 3bility Consulting and the Human Rights Centre. The information produced in the project supports the objectives set in the Programme of Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Government with regards to promoting responsible business.  

The results of the project were discussed in an online seminar the 26th of January 2021 that can be watched here.

"We used a methodology developed in the framework of Corporate Human Rights Benchmark’s global assessments, which are based on so -called core indicators of the UN's fundamental principles of human rights. The analysis is based on publicly available material. Our conclusion was that this method would be suitable for evaluations on continuous basis in Finland", says project leader Nikodemus Solitander at Hanken. 

The assessment focused on 78 Finnish companies. Of these, 29 companies were assessed using the sector-specific Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) methodology and 49 according to the indicators set in the UN Guiding Principles (UNGP).

"The sector specific analysis also includes interviews and many more indicators than the Core UNGP indicator assessment. The sector specific analysis might be too arduous for yearly evaluations and is also better suited for analysing big multinational companies", Solitander says. 


Public criticism can spar to action 

There is a pressure that similar investigations should be carried out continuously that comes from several different sources: human rights organizations, public institutions in countries that are committed to the UN human rights objectives, and increasingly also from representatives of investors. Companies generally do not mind being evaluated either, says Solitander. 

"Many companies like numerical evaluations. They can be motivated by being able to compare themselves with other companies in the same industry and to do better next time based on this, even if the method is not really developed for this."          

From the report it can be derived that public criticism and scrutiny might push companies to react and be more transparent. It is, namely, the Finnish forest sector that historically has faced severe criticism from the civil society related to human rights that stands out in the examination with the best results. 

"They have met criticism over the years and developed more systematic reporting systems where they use the same discourse that critics in the field use: the UN's human rights discourse."          

What surprises Solitander somewhat is that the ICT sector 's results in the investigation are as weak as they are. 

"In part, this may have to do with the fact that, among other things, privacy issues that ICT companies have strongly on their agenda are not perceived as human rights issues and are therefore not reported in the context of human rights. But that is not the only explanation. This is clearly an industry that has woken up late in this field."        


You have in the report emphasized that Finnish companies should not only work on human rights issues in countries where it is well known that the law in this area is weak, but that they also should pay attention to the human rights issues in their activities in Finland. Why?

"It is not a choice since the UN principles are universal. But it is also important to bring to the fore that this is not only about reporting about the problems, but also about the strengths. On the other hand, there are industries where there are human rights problems also in Finland, and it is especially groups that are also otherwise in a vulnerable position that suffer the most from them. As examples can be given seasonal workers in the agriculture, weak working conditions in the cleaning industry and some companies' attitudes towards people who identify as transgender."          


You can read the report here