Susan Joyce – From Managing Impacts to Respecting Rights: Changing the criteria for decisions

Respect for human rights has become an increasingly visible dimension of responsible business behavior over the last 2 decades since UN endorsement of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. As practitioners in the extractive sector, human rights assessors are often asked to fit the human rights approach into the pre-existing way the business assesses projects – including as part of an environmental and social impact assessment process.

The question must be asked then, if asking businesses to address human rights is making a difference in their procedures, their decisions, in their business models? Shift, the leading organization in the implementation of the UNGPs has recently published a report on the challenges of specific business models, raising awareness of the link between certain business practices and risks to human rights. In other words, is this business as usual, with a new requirement added in? Or has human rights due diligence – the lens brought to bear on questions of who loses in the process of developing this project, got the potential to lead to a real change?

This presentation will provide a brief overview of the evolution of Business & Human Rights and the UN Guiding Principles, and look at more recent developments introducing legal requirements in some jurisdictions. Then looking from the expertise and perspective of a practitioner, it will suggest how a shift from (environmental and social) impact management to a human rights due diligence approach offers a stronger lens for responsible decision-making for extractive activities.

Slide deck:


Susan Joyce, MSc., President, On Common Ground Consultants Inc.

Susan is a sociologist with 25 years of experience working with companies, communities and financial institutions to identify and manage social and human rights risks of the extractive industries and other investments, primarily in developing economies. She specializes in ESG compliance and advisory support for investors and in improving the social performance and human rights due diligence of companies. She leads an innovative ‘boots on the ground’ team assessing and training on strategic social and human rights assessments, multi-stakeholder processes, meaningful stakeholder engagement, and addressing the human and indigenous rights issues of investments. She has been involved in global initiatives including serving on the Expert Panel for the Global Tailings Review and working for the independent assurance mechanism of the IFC.

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