Corporate responsibility in conflict- and high-risk areas
Swedwatch remains deeply concerned about the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, and its effects on the human rights, including the right to life, of affected civilians. All business actors need to identify and address any risks to human rights that may be associated with their operations, in connection to the war.
The responsibility of companies
All companies have a responsibility for human rights impacts related to their operations. In conflict-affected and high-risk areas, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) call on businesses to conduct enhanced human rights due diligence (HRDD) to identify, prevent and mitigate these risks and treat them as a matter of legal compliance due to the heightened risks of gross rights abuses. This responsibility extends to the use of a company’s products. Therefore, Swedwatch calls on all companies, both those with suppliers and customers in Russia and the Ukraine, to conduct due diligence and risk analyses on an ongoing basis. Any risks identified must be addressed and mitigated.
The responsibility of investors
Like other business actors, investors should through adequate HRDD ensure that they avoid infringing on human rights, and address adverse human rights impacts which they cause, contribute or are linked to. In the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, this means to ensure that Russian (and Belorussian) clients and investments, as well as clients and investments with connection with Russia, are not linked to the war effort in any ways. Investors should also assess whether Russian clients and investments not obviously linked to the invasion are in effect instruments or enablers of the Russian regime.
For further and more detailed guidance, Swedwatch encourages business actors to consider implementing actions as outlined in the summary conducted by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, based on materials developed by the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance and the International Committee of the Red Cross. This guidance should be helpful for companies operating both in Ukraine and Russia.