Human rights benchmarks: Corporate performance rankings on the rise: The business case for understanding human rights and ESG benchmarks

White & Case LLP The strategic value of paying attention to areas that benchmarks assess

Some companies are skeptical about engaging with human rights and ESG benchmarking, because they question whether human rights and ESG disclosures and compliance have a direct economic effect on their bottom line. Some businesses and/or legal counsel are wary about the potential for litigation targeting their statements on human rights commitments. On the other hand, a lack of disclosure on human rights and ESG issues poses risks—as evidenced by the intense scrutiny, and in some cases litigation, that companies have faced around climate-related risks in the US, the UK and other countries.

Benchmarks are expanding to include ever more companies and industries.

Businesses also criticize aspects of the approaches that some benchmarks follow, such as how to credit appropriately or differentiate companies that attempt to be more ambitious on human rights issues. In addition, some companies find engagement difficult when the major benchmarks are themselves still changing in an evolving landscape of corporate human rights compliance. At the same time, benchmarks are expanding to include ever more companies and industries and, in many cases, can provide data-driven insights to support corporate strategy and management as well as visibility to stakeholder audiences that follow benchmark rankings.

Paying careful attention to the areas that benchmarks assess can help your business make informed decisions regarding disclosures, corporate governance, due diligence, compliance systems, training, crisis management and stakeholder engagement.

Benchmark data supports internal business management

Benchmarks can provide evidence-based insights to inform internal analyses, flag current or potential risks, assist companies in operationalizing how they assess potential risks and deliver quantitative comparisons with corporate peer groups. Over time, reviewing benchmark data can help executives better grasp where problems lie in operational areas and supply chains. That creates an opportunity to improve efficiency and train personnel to spot risk management issues more quickly. Benchmark information can also support the incremental evolution of a company's human rights compliance program, including human rights risk and impact assessments, development of coherent policies and procedures, governance reform, improved transparency on human rights topics and implementation of grievance mechanisms.

Benchmarks can provide data-driven insights to support corporate strategy and management.

According to Kilian Moote, Project Director for KTC, which produces a benchmark focused on forced labor and human trafficking in supply chains, benchmarks are a means to an end: "The most productive response from a benchmarked company should not be ‘How do we respond to the benchmark?' Rather, companies should ask ‘Do we understand the issues, and are our procedures appropriate to address those issues, understand the impacts of our programming and talk about our efforts?'"

Another major benchmark, the CHRB, assesses companies on six themes—governance and policies, embedding respect and human rights due diligence, remedies and grievance mechanisms, human rights practices, response to serious allegations (defined below) and transparency—and how companies' approaches to each align with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP). Endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, the UNGP are the first global, governmentally agreed standard that provides human rights guidelines applicable to all business enterprises and furnishes a global framework around which international practices and policies are converging. The UNGP forms the basis for many human rights benchmarks and human rights disclosure and compliance regulatory requirements. Legislation and regulations, including (but not limited to) the UK Modern Slavery Act (MSA), California Transparency in Supply Chains Act (CATSCA) and France's Duty of Vigilance Law, all establish an expectation by governments that companies implement the UNGP.

The 2019 CHRB rankings revealed that only a handful of companies made demonstrable progress in aligning their systems to the UNGP, while most companies scored well below the leaders (50 percent of benchmarked companies scored less than 20 percent overall), and some companies did not engage at all. Those that improved their scores year-on-year, though, tended to be companies that meaningfully engaged with the CHRB. Two elements seem to have contributed to the highest and lowest CHRB corporate scores in 2019: (i) responses to so-called “serious allegations” (a measurement theme focused on responses to significant allegations from external sources) and (ii) corporate governance and policies. According to the CHRB’s 2019 Key Findings Report, “of the almost 150 allegations reviewed, in only 3 percent of cases do the companies show that they provided remedy that was satisfactory to the victim.”28

RDR focuses on data privacy issues at 24 of the world’s most powerful internet, mobile ecosystem and telecommunications companies. In 2019, the RDR Corporate Accountability Index revealed that, despite some improvements, most companies still do not adequately inform consumers about data collection and sharing practices, lack transparency with respect to data requests and content removal, and fail to anticipate and manage privacy and expression-related risks associated with business models and new technologies.

BankTrack’s 2019 Human Rights Benchmark indicates that four out of five of the 50 largest private commercial banks are “failing” on human rights, having implemented less than half of the UNGP requirements. According to BankTrack: Most banks’ reporting covers only internal policy developments (not key human rights risks, specific impacts or related indicators); no banks have established or participated in effective grievance mechanisms for individuals affected by financing impacts; just over one-fifth of assessed banks demonstrate senior-level sign-off on policy commitments; and none communicate how their efforts lead to improvements for rights-holders. The average score of benchmarked banks in 2019 was 28.6 percent, up just slightly from 28.3 percent in 2016.

Investor interest drives much of the current emphasis on benchmarking

Investors, lenders and other stakeholders are hungry for data, and ESG reporting and concerns about social and environmental risks—and corporate management of these risks across global value chains—increasingly drive their decisions. Performing well in benchmarks, when combined with corporate disclosure regimes, can improve a company’s access to capital, particularly from investor groups that use benchmark results in their investment decisions.

Many investors view benchmarks as a type of rating with ESG data and increasingly use them to evaluate companies as investment prospects.

Accustomed to reviewing financial and other information from ratings agencies, many investors view benchmarks as a type of rating with ESG data and increasingly use ESG-related criteria to evaluate companies as investment prospects. As legally required and voluntary disclosure and transparency obligations grow, investors are likely to become even more accustomed to including benchmark rankings in their decision-making. Lenders also may be committed to considering environmental and human rights in their financing decisions by their adherence to the Equator Principles, a risk management framework used by financial institutions to assess and manage environmental and social risks in project finance.

Eric-Paul Schat, Senior Director of Sustainability, Environmental Health & Safety at NXP Semiconductors, describes benchmarking as a “critical information that helps investors make decisions, which of course depends on the context.” Raul Manjarin, a sustainability expert at Credit Suisse, says he informs his due diligence analysis by using information from multiple sources and reviewing transaction-specific documentation (such as environmental and social impact assessments), answers to sustainability questions sent directly to companies, and corporate policies, commitments, certifications and documented capacity and performance.

As more investors promote human rights and practice responsible business conduct in their own operations, they will become even more likely to turn to benchmarks to assess their potential investments. Some benchmarks have enlisted investors to identify companies and sectors to assess.

For example, KTC has been endorsed by investors representing more than US$4.8 trillion in assets, the majority of whom say they use KTC data to advocate for action with companies. The Investor Alliance for Human Rights highlighted BankTrack’s 2019 rankings as providing “critical information” for its members as they engage portfolio banks on aligning their policies and practices to the UNGP.29

The CHRB, endorsed by the Investor Alliance for Human Rights, collaborates with the Alliance and the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) on a number of initiatives. According to the CHRB, some investors report integrating CHRB scores into their automatic voting processes (for example, voting against corporate management at annual general meetings if they score poorly), and investors representing more than US$5 trillion under management wrote to all companies benchmarked by CHRB in 2016 to ask how they were responding to results. In 2016, when the US Securities and Exchange Commission requested comments on a proposal to require listed companies to report on sustainability and corporate responsibility issues, a number of investor organizations referenced the CHRB and KTC in their comments supporting an ESG reporting requirement.

Shareholders use benchmarks to press for corporate action

According to the CHRB and RDR, a number of shareholder resolutions have used data from these benchmarks to attempt to influence corporate behavior. In 2017, the Australasian Center for Corporate Responsibility formally licensed CHRB’s methodology as a basis for its research into the human rights performance of listed Australian companies and introduced a shareholder resolution at the annual general meeting of a low-performing company, which contributed to the eventual development of an agreement addressing labor in its supply chains. A US shareholder advocacy organization, As You Sow, has called attention to some companies’ CHRB and KTC scores as a basis for proposals to pressure corporate boards to report on company processes to identify and analyze human rights risks in their operations and supply chains.

Other entities produce their own benchmarks. For example, a UK shareholder entity, ShareAction, has created a Workforce Disclosure Initiative that asks companies to report data on workforce management and supply chains and provides feedback on their disclosures. At the same time, some companies on the receiving end of these and similar campaigns have relied on strong benchmark scores as evidence that their compliance is sufficient.

Whether or not they expressly reference benchmark data, shareholder human rights resolutions are on the rise. Kraft Heinz Co. implemented a global human rights policy in response to a 2019 shareholder resolution requesting information on the company’s process for identifying and assessing human rights risks across its operations and supply chain (the resolution was withdrawn when the company agreed to publish a policy and implement a due diligence process). A similar proposal at Microchip Technology Inc. achieved a majority of votes (51.3 percent). Meanwhile, a proposal that would have required Macy’s Inc. to do the same was defeated at the company’s annual shareholder meeting with 35 percent voting in favor and 52 percent against.

Benchmarks showcase early-stage results to consumers and regulators

Over time, benchmark results can be a tool that differentiates your business from your competitors among clients, customers and other audiences.

To date, there is little evidence that benchmark scores significantly affect consumer purchasing decisions or lead to immediate consumer boycotts. Still, one stated aim of some benchmarks is to influence how consumers approach socially responsible companies, and several of them are exploring ways to improve consumer literacy on these issues.

The CHRB says it has engaged with a number of governments that have expressed interest in, or applied elements of, the CHRB’s methodology in national-level assessments of companies. Within the EU, discussions of EU non-financial reporting and due diligence issues mention the CHRB. Campaigns in certain European countries seek to use an abridged version of the CHRB methodology as evidence of the need for legislation requiring human rights due diligence. CHRB results also may be influencing some government reviews of National Action Plans (NAPs) on business and human rights (government-led strategies designed to help countries fulfill their responsibility to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including businesses). The CHRB is providing input on a study assessing potential revisions to Germany’s NAP, and the UK has defended its decision to delay its NAP review, in part to allow the CHRB to demonstrate the proof of concept of benchmarks in a mixed-regulatory approach to improving human rights performance. The CHRB argues that without a baseline understanding of corporate implementation of the UNGP, there is little hope of tracking the impact of (or need for) additional regulations, a lesson learned from the lack of oversight of the implementation of the UK MSA.



Written by:

White & Case LLP

White & Case LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
- hide

JD Supra Privacy Policy

Updated: May 25, 2018:

JD Supra is a legal publishing service that connects experts and their content with broader audiences of professionals, journalists and associations.

This Privacy Policy describes how JD Supra, LLC ("JD Supra" or "we," "us," or "our") collects, uses and shares personal data collected from visitors to our website (located at (our "Website") who view only publicly-available content as well as subscribers to our services (such as our email digests or author tools)(our "Services"). By using our Website and registering for one of our Services, you are agreeing to the terms of this Privacy Policy.

Please note that if you subscribe to one of our Services, you can make choices about how we collect, use and share your information through our Privacy Center under the "My Account" dashboard (available if you are logged into your JD Supra account).

Collection of Information

Registration Information. When you register with JD Supra for our Website and Services, either as an author or as a subscriber, you will be asked to provide identifying information to create your JD Supra account ("Registration Data"), such as your:

  • Email
  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Company Name
  • Company Industry
  • Title
  • Country

Other Information: We also collect other information you may voluntarily provide. This may include content you provide for publication. We may also receive your communications with others through our Website and Services (such as contacting an author through our Website) or communications directly with us (such as through email, feedback or other forms or social media). If you are a subscribed user, we will also collect your user preferences, such as the types of articles you would like to read.

Information from third parties (such as, from your employer or LinkedIn): We may also receive information about you from third party sources. For example, your employer may provide your information to us, such as in connection with an article submitted by your employer for publication. If you choose to use LinkedIn to subscribe to our Website and Services, we also collect information related to your LinkedIn account and profile.

Your interactions with our Website and Services: As is true of most websites, we gather certain information automatically. This information includes IP addresses, browser type, Internet service provider (ISP), referring/exit pages, operating system, date/time stamp and clickstream data. We use this information to analyze trends, to administer the Website and our Services, to improve the content and performance of our Website and Services, and to track users' movements around the site. We may also link this automatically-collected data to personal information, for example, to inform authors about who has read their articles. Some of this data is collected through information sent by your web browser. We also use cookies and other tracking technologies to collect this information. To learn more about cookies and other tracking technologies that JD Supra may use on our Website and Services please see our "Cookies Guide" page.

How do we use this information?

We use the information and data we collect principally in order to provide our Website and Services. More specifically, we may use your personal information to:

  • Operate our Website and Services and publish content;
  • Distribute content to you in accordance with your preferences as well as to provide other notifications to you (for example, updates about our policies and terms);
  • Measure readership and usage of the Website and Services;
  • Communicate with you regarding your questions and requests;
  • Authenticate users and to provide for the safety and security of our Website and Services;
  • Conduct research and similar activities to improve our Website and Services; and
  • Comply with our legal and regulatory responsibilities and to enforce our rights.

How is your information shared?

  • Content and other public information (such as an author profile) is shared on our Website and Services, including via email digests and social media feeds, and is accessible to the general public.
  • If you choose to use our Website and Services to communicate directly with a company or individual, such communication may be shared accordingly.
  • Readership information is provided to publishing law firms and authors of content to give them insight into their readership and to help them to improve their content.
  • Our Website may offer you the opportunity to share information through our Website, such as through Facebook's "Like" or Twitter's "Tweet" button. We offer this functionality to help generate interest in our Website and content and to permit you to recommend content to your contacts. You should be aware that sharing through such functionality may result in information being collected by the applicable social media network and possibly being made publicly available (for example, through a search engine). Any such information collection would be subject to such third party social media network's privacy policy.
  • Your information may also be shared to parties who support our business, such as professional advisors as well as web-hosting providers, analytics providers and other information technology providers.
  • Any court, governmental authority, law enforcement agency or other third party where we believe disclosure is necessary to comply with a legal or regulatory obligation, or otherwise to protect our rights, the rights of any third party or individuals' personal safety, or to detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security or safety issues.
  • To our affiliated entities and in connection with the sale, assignment or other transfer of our company or our business.

How We Protect Your Information

JD Supra takes reasonable and appropriate precautions to insure that user information is protected from loss, misuse and unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration and destruction. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. You should keep in mind that no Internet transmission is ever 100% secure or error-free. Where you use log-in credentials (usernames, passwords) on our Website, please remember that it is your responsibility to safeguard them. If you believe that your log-in credentials have been compromised, please contact us at

Children's Information

Our Website and Services are not directed at children under the age of 16 and we do not knowingly collect personal information from children under the age of 16 through our Website and/or Services. If you have reason to believe that a child under the age of 16 has provided personal information to us, please contact us, and we will endeavor to delete that information from our databases.

Links to Other Websites

Our Website and Services may contain links to other websites. The operators of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using our Website or Services and click a link to another site, you will leave our Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We are not responsible for the data collection and use practices of such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of our Website and Services and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Information for EU and Swiss Residents

JD Supra's principal place of business is in the United States. By subscribing to our website, you expressly consent to your information being processed in the United States.

  • Our Legal Basis for Processing: Generally, we rely on our legitimate interests in order to process your personal information. For example, we rely on this legal ground if we use your personal information to manage your Registration Data and administer our relationship with you; to deliver our Website and Services; understand and improve our Website and Services; report reader analytics to our authors; to personalize your experience on our Website and Services; and where necessary to protect or defend our or another's rights or property, or to detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security, safety or privacy issues. Please see Article 6(1)(f) of the E.U. General Data Protection Regulation ("GDPR") In addition, there may be other situations where other grounds for processing may exist, such as where processing is a result of legal requirements (GDPR Article 6(1)(c)) or for reasons of public interest (GDPR Article 6(1)(e)). Please see the "Your Rights" section of this Privacy Policy immediately below for more information about how you may request that we limit or refrain from processing your personal information.
  • Your Rights
    • Right of Access/Portability: You can ask to review details about the information we hold about you and how that information has been used and disclosed. Note that we may request to verify your identification before fulfilling your request. You can also request that your personal information is provided to you in a commonly used electronic format so that you can share it with other organizations.
    • Right to Correct Information: You may ask that we make corrections to any information we hold, if you believe such correction to be necessary.
    • Right to Restrict Our Processing or Erasure of Information: You also have the right in certain circumstances to ask us to restrict processing of your personal information or to erase your personal information. Where you have consented to our use of your personal information, you can withdraw your consent at any time.

You can make a request to exercise any of these rights by emailing us at or by writing to us at:

Privacy Officer
JD Supra, LLC
10 Liberty Ship Way, Suite 300
Sausalito, California 94965

You can also manage your profile and subscriptions through our Privacy Center under the "My Account" dashboard.

We will make all practical efforts to respect your wishes. There may be times, however, where we are not able to fulfill your request, for example, if applicable law prohibits our compliance. Please note that JD Supra does not use "automatic decision making" or "profiling" as those terms are defined in the GDPR.

  • Timeframe for retaining your personal information: We will retain your personal information in a form that identifies you only for as long as it serves the purpose(s) for which it was initially collected as stated in this Privacy Policy, or subsequently authorized. We may continue processing your personal information for longer periods, but only for the time and to the extent such processing reasonably serves the purposes of archiving in the public interest, journalism, literature and art, scientific or historical research and statistical analysis, and subject to the protection of this Privacy Policy. For example, if you are an author, your personal information may continue to be published in connection with your article indefinitely. When we have no ongoing legitimate business need to process your personal information, we will either delete or anonymize it, or, if this is not possible (for example, because your personal information has been stored in backup archives), then we will securely store your personal information and isolate it from any further processing until deletion is possible.
  • Onward Transfer to Third Parties: As noted in the "How We Share Your Data" Section above, JD Supra may share your information with third parties. When JD Supra discloses your personal information to third parties, we have ensured that such third parties have either certified under the EU-U.S. or Swiss Privacy Shield Framework and will process all personal data received from EU member states/Switzerland in reliance on the applicable Privacy Shield Framework or that they have been subjected to strict contractual provisions in their contract with us to guarantee an adequate level of data protection for your data.

California Privacy Rights

Pursuant to Section 1798.83 of the California Civil Code, our customers who are California residents have the right to request certain information regarding our disclosure of personal information to third parties for their direct marketing purposes.

You can make a request for this information by emailing us at or by writing to us at:

Privacy Officer
JD Supra, LLC
10 Liberty Ship Way, Suite 300
Sausalito, California 94965

Some browsers have incorporated a Do Not Track (DNT) feature. These features, when turned on, send a signal that you prefer that the website you are visiting not collect and use data regarding your online searching and browsing activities. As there is not yet a common understanding on how to interpret the DNT signal, we currently do not respond to DNT signals on our site.

Access/Correct/Update/Delete Personal Information

For non-EU/Swiss residents, if you would like to know what personal information we have about you, you can send an e-mail to We will be in contact with you (by mail or otherwise) to verify your identity and provide you the information you request. We will respond within 30 days to your request for access to your personal information. In some cases, we may not be able to remove your personal information, in which case we will let you know if we are unable to do so and why. If you would like to correct or update your personal information, you can manage your profile and subscriptions through our Privacy Center under the "My Account" dashboard. If you would like to delete your account or remove your information from our Website and Services, send an e-mail to

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Privacy Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our Privacy Policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use our Website and Services following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy, the practices of this site, your dealings with our Website or Services, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

JD Supra Cookie Guide

As with many websites, JD Supra's website (located at (our "Website") and our services (such as our email article digests)(our "Services") use a standard technology called a "cookie" and other similar technologies (such as, pixels and web beacons), which are small data files that are transferred to your computer when you use our Website and Services. These technologies automatically identify your browser whenever you interact with our Website and Services.

How We Use Cookies and Other Tracking Technologies

We use cookies and other tracking technologies to:

  1. Improve the user experience on our Website and Services;
  2. Store the authorization token that users receive when they login to the private areas of our Website. This token is specific to a user's login session and requires a valid username and password to obtain. It is required to access the user's profile information, subscriptions, and analytics;
  3. Track anonymous site usage; and
  4. Permit connectivity with social media networks to permit content sharing.

There are different types of cookies and other technologies used our Website, notably:

  • "Session cookies" - These cookies only last as long as your online session, and disappear from your computer or device when you close your browser (like Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Safari).
  • "Persistent cookies" - These cookies stay on your computer or device after your browser has been closed and last for a time specified in the cookie. We use persistent cookies when we need to know who you are for more than one browsing session. For example, we use them to remember your preferences for the next time you visit.
  • "Web Beacons/Pixels" - Some of our web pages and emails may also contain small electronic images known as web beacons, clear GIFs or single-pixel GIFs. These images are placed on a web page or email and typically work in conjunction with cookies to collect data. We use these images to identify our users and user behavior, such as counting the number of users who have visited a web page or acted upon one of our email digests.

JD Supra Cookies. We place our own cookies on your computer to track certain information about you while you are using our Website and Services. For example, we place a session cookie on your computer each time you visit our Website. We use these cookies to allow you to log-in to your subscriber account. In addition, through these cookies we are able to collect information about how you use the Website, including what browser you may be using, your IP address, and the URL address you came from upon visiting our Website and the URL you next visit (even if those URLs are not on our Website). We also utilize email web beacons to monitor whether our emails are being delivered and read. We also use these tools to help deliver reader analytics to our authors to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

Analytics/Performance Cookies. JD Supra also uses the following analytic tools to help us analyze the performance of our Website and Services as well as how visitors use our Website and Services:

  • HubSpot - For more information about HubSpot cookies, please visit
  • New Relic - For more information on New Relic cookies, please visit
  • Google Analytics - For more information on Google Analytics cookies, visit To opt-out of being tracked by Google Analytics across all websites visit This will allow you to download and install a Google Analytics cookie-free web browser.

Facebook, Twitter and other Social Network Cookies. Our content pages allow you to share content appearing on our Website and Services to your social media accounts through the "Like," "Tweet," or similar buttons displayed on such pages. To accomplish this Service, we embed code that such third party social networks provide and that we do not control. These buttons know that you are logged in to your social network account and therefore such social networks could also know that you are viewing the JD Supra Website.

Controlling and Deleting Cookies

If you would like to change how a browser uses cookies, including blocking or deleting cookies from the JD Supra Website and Services you can do so by changing the settings in your web browser. To control cookies, most browsers allow you to either accept or reject all cookies, only accept certain types of cookies, or prompt you every time a site wishes to save a cookie. It's also easy to delete cookies that are already saved on your device by a browser.

The processes for controlling and deleting cookies vary depending on which browser you use. To find out how to do so with a particular browser, you can use your browser's "Help" function or alternatively, you can visit which explains, step-by-step, how to control and delete cookies in most browsers.

Updates to This Policy

We may update this cookie policy and our Privacy Policy from time-to-time, particularly as technology changes. You can always check this page for the latest version. We may also notify you of changes to our privacy policy by email.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about how we use cookies and other tracking technologies, please contact us at:

- hide

This website uses cookies to improve user experience, track anonymous site usage, store authorization tokens and permit sharing on social media networks. By continuing to browse this website you accept the use of cookies. Click here to read more about how we use cookies.