Human Rights


In 2017 ACCR identified human rights as a key issue for research. Together with the Centre for Australian Ethical Research (CAER), ACCR produced a detailed benchmark report examining the performance of Australian listed companies with regards to how they manage human rights risks.

The intersection between business and human rights as a field has undergone recent and rapid development globally. The publication of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the Human Rights Chapter of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, both in 2011, has paved the way for the consideration of human rights issues in a corporate context to become the norm.

In order to evaluate a selection of Australian listed companies, ACCR and CAER made use of a research methodology developed by the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB). This enabled Australian companies to be evaluated against internationally accepted human rights indicators as well as compared to their international counterparts.

It was found, on average that the Australian companies evaluated performed in line with or better than their global peers. Whilst many companies are making headway with how they assess and disclose human rights risks (as shown in the table below), there are significant number of Australian companies who should and could readily improve their performance.

Our first target was Woolworths which performed poorly in our survey of the policies and procedures aimed at ensuring people’s human rights aren’t violated within company supply chains. Woolworths complex and extensive agricultural supply chains expose them to significant risks: recently we’ve seen reports of extreme labour exploitation on Australian farms, not to mention the slave-like conditions people work in, in other parts of the globe, to produce products which end up on this companies’ shelves.

ACCR put forward a resolution at the Woolworths 2017 AGM. You can read the ASX announcement here. You can read our final resolution here.

Our resolution was withdrawn after WOW and NUW reached a historic agreement on the human rights of farm-workers. Read our statement and the Woolworths announcement here. Read Woolworths Group’s response on ethical sourcing and supply chain human rights here.

In order to file a substantive resolution on climate/human rights issues in Australia, shareholders need to propose an amendment to the company’s constitution which allows them to do so. Therefore, ACCR has also proposed this kind of amendment to the company’s constitution.