Europe focuses on human rights


The integration of human rights into business functions is a mosaic that is in the process of being assembled. The European Union has placed the relationship between business activities and human rights at the centre of its corporate social responsibility strategy (CSR), despite the fact that Member State policies tend to diverge and are sometimes limited to mere compliance with regulations. In order to progress quickly and effectively, the private sector must strive beyond compliance and put all of its potential for development to good use.

CSR Europe, the leading European network for corporate social responsibility (with 50 corporate members, including Enel, and 45 national CSR organisations reaching a total of over 10,000 businesses), is a platform for companies that aim to contribute to the sustainable development of society at large.

During the Brussels event Open Forum on shared responsibility for human rights and global value chains, CSR Europe presented the Blueprint for Embedding Human Rights in Key Company Functions: a study of the integration of human rights into business functions, with the aim of providing support to the actors involved in the process, in addition to clarifying roles and responsibilities. During the creation of the Blueprint, CSR Europe called upon a series of experts to identify the key elements and cases of best practices within the sector, while gathering information on companies in order to analyse trends and identify good examples to be included in the document.

During the open forum, participants discussed how human rights can be integrated into business processes and functions, and how businesses and the EU can work together to speed up the process and ensure its effectiveness. The first panel of the day focussed on the creation of a stable and sustainable international business environment. Giulia Genuardi, Enel’s Head of Sustainability Planning and Performance, spoke on behalf of our Group: ‘Enel's activities in this field are divided into three types: making people a priority, respecting the communities in which we operate and human rights in business activities. This Blueprint is the first structured analysis of the implementation of human rights in major EU companies, and we are proud to say that some of Enel’s practices in this sector have been recognised as best practices at a continental level.’

Marina Migliorato, Enel’s Head of Sustainability Innovation & Stakeholder Engagement and a CSR Europe Board Member, moderated the second panel, which focussed on how to develop new methods of collaboration between companies and the European Union. The representatives that spoke at the event included Dante Pesce, President of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, Harrison Cooter from the British Government’s Home Office, and Gilles Goedhart from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also on behalf of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

‘A true partnership between the public and private sectors can ensure Europe a global leadership role in defending human rights and a truly responsible supply chain,’ declared Migliorato. ‘European companies, and Enel in particular, have demonstrated their ability to implement the necessary processes to protect human rights, as set forth in the United Nations 2030 Agenda.’

An increasingly strong partnership between the public and private sectors is of vital importance in order to ensure Europe’s leadership with respect to human rights in sustainable supply chains, both at a local and global level. We embarked on this path years ago. In 2013, we launched a “Policy on Human Rights” that expresses the commitments and responsibilities that we have undertaken in this field, as promoters of these rights for our contractors, suppliers and business partners. This commitment has received international recognition through the renewal of our inclusion in the FTSE4Good index, which measures the performance of companies based on their respect for human rights, environmental sustainability, stakeholder relations, working conditions and anti-corruption. We have also been one of the active members of the United Nations Global Compact since 2004, as well as the Steering Committee of the Global Compact LEAD since 2011, a committee composed of the companies that have developed the best global sustainability practices.

The Global Compact is an action programme dedicated to the business world and promoted by the UN Secretary-General. Its goal is to create a partnership between the public and private sectors for the creation and development of the United Nations’ ten universal principles concerning human rights, labour, environmental protection and anti-corruption.