GLOBAL - One multinational company in five has to face at least one allegation of having violated human rights, according to a study by ESG research provider Vigeo.
Vigeo said the topic of human rights had now become a part of most companies' public discourse, and that many had shown support for the principles and goals of international conventions announced by the UN, the ILO and the OECD.
"However," it added, "the implementation of commitments, notably the ability to report on processes dedicated to protection of human rights and prevention of violations' risks remains modest and often criticised.
"One company out of five - 21.5% - had to face at least one allegation of violation of one or several human rights during the past three years."
The analysis highlighted that freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were the fundamental rights least addressed.
But it did say there were "advanced practices" in the human rights framework.
"The most committed companies are not only able to implement strong risk prevention, but can also positively distinguish themselves in terms of reputation, human capital cohesion, efficiency of their organisation and legal security," it said.
Vigeo also identified the 30 companies that, through their commitments and management processes, had demonstrated exemplary standards.
Of these companies, 24 were located in Europe. Three, namely BT Group in first position with a score of 80/100, Aviva in 13th with a score of 68/100 and Anglo American in 24th with a score of 64/100, were from the UK.
Fouad Benseddik, director of methodology and institutional relationships at Vigeo, said: "We note an improvement of practices among firms that were already committed in favour of human rights.
"There is still a long way to go for the majority of multinational companies - they must make their commitments and their action plans consistent in order to mitigate their growing risks on this subject."
The study is based on Vigeo's ratings and analyses the behaviour of nearly 1,500 North American, European and Asian listed companies regarding their respect for human rights between 2009 and 2012.
The methodology covered the following sustainability drivers: respect for human rights standards and prevention of violations, respect for freedom and the right to collective bargaining, non-discrimination and promotion of equality and prevention of social dumping in the supply chain.
For each driver, the study lists the obtained results per region and per sector, having analysed each company's commitments and reported measures, plus the number of
companies that faced allegations and the number that undertook corrective measures, as well as highlighting best practices.
In other news, investments in UK green and ethical funds have risen to £11bn (€13.7bn), up from £4bn 10 years ago, according to sustainable investment research specialist EIRIS.
Mark Robertson, head of communications at and editor of YourEthicalMoney.org, said: "Over the last decade, we've seen sustained growth in green and ethical finance, largely driven by consumer interest in issues like climate change, fair trade, human rights and, more recently, executive pay.
"The credit crunch and ongoing financial crisis, plus unethical behaviour at scandal-hit high street banks, is encouraging more people to switch to financial product providers that offer a more ethical, sustainable and long-term approach to finance."