Human rights are fundamental to companies' bottom line, say CEOs

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Children working at a stone quarry in Zambia. © Manoocher Deghati/IRIN

Promoting human rights is fundamental to companies' survival according to global business leaders who claim that industry can succeed where governments fall short.

At a UN forum in Geneva, Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore said it was "essential" that rights issues such as child labour, education and affordable health care were addressed.

By way of example Mr Collymore said that 26 per cent of Kenyan children were involved in child labour and  not getting a decent education.

The Kenya mobile phone boss warned this meant they were a "threat" to his company's bottom line.

He said that many governments focused more on getting re-elected than on the welfare of their people, while businesses had the benefit of a longer-term view.

Also at the meeting, Finance Norway managing director Idar Kreutzer said businesses could no longer ignore the human rights question:

"For some to many it looks intuitive that paying less, using child labour, exploiting land is cheaper and boosts profit, but the point is that these companies that follow that route will over time lose business opportunities, pay higher cost of capital and lose market positions and may be legally liable, it's a short-term versus long-term issue and it's a strong business case."  (26″)

Mexican human rights defender Alejandra Ancheita said that the reality was many transnational companies did not respect human rights.

The challenge then is to give indigenous and agrarian communities the judicial tools to defend themselves against major corporations and seek redress from governments, Ms Ancheita said.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations.

Duration:  1’40″


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