In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly and Human Rights Council formally recognized the human right to water and sanitation. In 2011, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (“Guiding Principles”) were unanimously endorsed by member states in the UN Human Rights Council. The Guiding Principles have clarified the global expectation that businesses everywhere should respect human rights throughout their operations.
Following these developments, companies in the UNGC CEO Water Mandate recognized that business was in need of practical guidance about how to effectively align corporate water stewardship practice with the corporate responsibility to respect the human rights to water and sanitation. This Guidance aims to meet that need, by helping companies bring a human rights lens to their existing or emerging water stewardship efforts.
This Guidance aims to:
- Help companies (particularly heavy water users) translate their responsibility to respect the HRWS into their existing water management policies, processes, and company cultures
- Complement related efforts to clarify the obligations and responsibilities of other actors (particularly states and public or private water and sanitation service providers) with regard to the HRWS.
Elements for Respecting the HRWS in Practice
Find guidance on key steps for companies seeking to respect the HRWS throughout their
The Guidance is focused on respecting the HRWS. It recognizes throughout that impacts on the HRWS can often involve impacts on other human rights as well.
The Guidance applies the core elements of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights under the UN Guiding Principles to the HRWS. The Guiding Principles operationalize the UN “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework.
The UN Framework rests on three pillars:
- The state duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business, through appropriate policies, regulation, and adjudication
- The corporate responsibility to respect human rights, which means to avoid infringing on the rights of others and to address negative impacts with which a business may be involved
- The need for greater access by victims to effective remedy, both judicial and nonjudicial.
The UN Guiding Principles help businesses implement their responsibilities under the second and third pillars of the Framework by focusing on the kinds of polices and processes that they need to put in place in order to know and show that they respect human rights throughout their operations — meaning both in their own activities as well as through their business relationships.
Where companies have committed to supporting human rights, there are additional expectations about the actions they will take.