Human Rights Management Approach closes first cycle, receives global acclaim

Author: Geneviève Tremblay

As Holcim gets ready to close the first cycle of assessments as part of its Human Rights Management Approach on December 31 of this year, the program has already received recognition from the 2014 Tomorrow’s Value Rating (TVR), an annual assessment of corporate sustainability practices. The rating, conducted by the respected consultancy DNV GL Group, evaluates the sustainability performance of 45 global companies across five key domains: strategy, engagement, governance, innovation, and value chain.

Holcim ranked second overall, and is sector leader in the construction and materials section. This is mostly thanks to the Sustainable Development Ambition 2030 and the Human Rights Management Approach. Specifically, the report argues that upholding the human rights of stakeholders (employees, suppliers, local communities, etc.) has become a ‘hot topic’ in recent years, and that in this context of increased awareness on the part of companies Holcim emerges as a leader.

“We found that most standalone human rights policies or codes of conduct remain purposefully high level without sufficiently clear guidance to support organisational implementation on the frontline. Bridging this disconnect through the development and roll-out of comprehensive, company-wide management systems is essential,” the report explains. “Holcim is leading the way in this regard by implementing a specialised Human Rights Management System. The system prescribes a different impact assessment approach and corrective actions depending on country specific risks of violating human rights.”

Holcim's management approach was previously recognized in 2013 as a leading practice by external actors when examples from individual Group companies were published in a best practice collection issued by the United Nations.

Holcim is ranked second overall in the global report 2014

Download the global report 2014


Addressing Human Rights, a business imperative

Global and national developments show that the topic of business and human rights has been gaining increased attention from governments, civil society, and corporations, making corporate respect for human rights an expected standard of conduct. Managing the issue thus remains crucial from a risk management and sustainability leadership perspective.

For this reason, Holcim’s directive is fully in line with the internationally agreed Guiding Principles on business and human rights (developed by John Ruggie and adopted by the United Nations in 2011). It calls for all Holcim Group companies to conduct a human rights assessment before 2015 in line with the risk categorization methodology, which is based on the UN Human Development Index (HDI) and the Freedom House Index (FH) and ranks countries according to low, medium, or high-risk business environments.

Considering Human Rights risks in day to day business

Holcim Group companies operating in high-risk countries (a total of 16) are required to conduct a full impact assessment, supported by a trained facilitator. It consists of a seven to ten-day complex process of data collection, defining relevant business issues, and conducting interviews and focus groups with various internal and external stakeholders (such as the CEO, employees and NGOs), followed by debriefing and drafting of an action plan stipulating how implementation will be monitored.

Group companies operating in low-risk environments (a total of 35) are required to conduct a self-assessment, consisting of a group workshop with the CEO and function heads to rate the risk level on 14 business-related human rights issues, existing safeguards/mitigation measures, as well as debriefing and drafting an action plan including monitoring measures.

This process enables Holcim to address day to day business-related risks in its operating environment more systematically, and better engage with stakeholders.

Holcim's Corporate Sustainable Development Report 2013

Download Holcim's Corporate Sustainable Development Report 2013


Ensuring follow up of the Human Rights approach 
Implementation of Holcim’s Human Rights Management Approach is monitored and supported through internal monitoring channels. The system’s second cycle, scheduled to end in 2017, will review the country risk categorization and follow up on identified risks.

Holcim is committed to communicating its approach through external corporate channels, such as the Corporate Sustainable Development Report. The company also contributes to multi-stakeholder dialogues on business and human rights (including in the context of the current ‘Recht ohne Grenzen’ campaign in Switzerland and through the UN Global Compact Swiss Network) and engages with business associations on the topic (Economiesuisse, Swissholdings).