Making sense of managing human rights issues in supply chains

2018 report and analysis

A previous human rights due diligence (HRDD) study conducted by Norton Rose Fulbright and the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL) highlighted the need for further research into the management of human rights issues in the supply chain. Common practical challenges were highlighted by business representatives with whom we engaged, such as how to engage beyond the first tier, where no contractual relationships exist, and how to undertake an effective HRDD exercise when information about human rights issues is not readily available.

We therefore conceived of a second project focussed on HRDD in supply chains. This report summarises the results of that follow-up project, undertaken in 2017-2018.


Effective supply chain management

Our research shows that the easiest way to make sense of managing human rights issues in supply chains is to follow the human rights due diligence (HRDD) principles as defined by the UNGPs. Supply chain HRDD is a process which is broader than introducing a Supplier Code of Conduct, adding human rights screening of suppliers to existing human rights processes and including standard contractual protections into supplier contracts. Supply chain HRDD is best understood as an ongoing, dynamic and context-specific process, as depicted in the diagram below. An analysis of those organisations which are perceived as having the most advanced HRDD processes reveals that not all started in the same place. Ultimately, any positive action started in any area of a business enterprise’s supply chain management process is helpful. Over time the goal should be to develop an approach where each component feeds into the next in a logical way which reflects the expectations of the UNGPs. In all cases, it is important to have a coherent strategy which informs a credible, defensible methodology implemented by individuals with appropriate expertise and resources. 

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Key observations





Background and methodology

Effective supply chain management

Global project working group


Global project working group

We combine a deep knowledge of this emerging regulatory framework with wide-ranging experience of best practice in business ethics compliance. Our approach is holistic: alongside the client, we work to deliver human rights management systems which address every aspect of legal, reputational and operational risk.