Pillars in Practice Program

Activating a strategic partnership with the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) to advance the UN Guiding Principles in Bangladesh, Nicaragua & Zimbabwe

SAI's shared vision is the realization of decent work everywhere - sustained by a widespread understanding that decent work can secure basic human rights while benefiting business. Under this new program, SAI will leverage its 15 years of experience advancing human rights at work to advance the UN's "Protect, Respect and Remedy" Framework designed to help companies, governments and communities manage human rights challenges in a fair and sustainable way.

The 'Pillars in Practice' Program of SAI and DIHR built the capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs) in Bangladesh, Nicaragua and Zimbabwe, to engage with and train on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (GPs). The main goal of the program was to activate a strategic alliance by establishing the training capacity of CSO partners in each of the three countries to sustainably promote and assist in the implementation of the GPs by local and multi-national companies, government agencies and other local CSOs.

This program targeted three industrial sectors over a 24 month period: agriculture in Nicaragua, garment manufacturing in Bangladesh, and mining in Zimbabwe. The activities were implemented by a consortium of international and local CSOs, including a strong team of international partners: Social Accountability International (SAI), the Danish Institute for Human Rights (Denmark), PASE - Professional for Corporate and Social Auditing (Nicaragua) and UniRSE - Unión Nicaragüense para la Responsabilidad Social Empresarial (Nicaragua), the CSR Centre (Bangladesh) and the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zimbabwe). PASE was a local partner in SAI's four-year 'Project Cultivar,' to improve labor standards compliance in the CAFTA-DR agricultural sector.

To meet its goal, the program had six key objectives: 1) customization of training materials; 2) training of trainers; 3) implementation of GPs; 4) generation of multi-stakeholder dialogues; 5) publication of three case studies on the GPs in action; and 6) knowledge sharing with the UN working group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises.

Partners adapted and customized existing materials for each country-from SAI's Handbook developed with ICCO - "U.N. Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights: A Six-Step Approach to Supply Chain Implementation" and the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) Country Portal Briefings on Bangladesh, Nicaragua and Zimbabwe- to co-train staff of the CSOs as trainers for private sector, peer organizations and government representatives.

"The program is a culmination of all the partners' collective strengths and expertise," said SAI President Alice Tepper Marlin. "We are delighted by this opportunity to work with such a diverse team of highly respected civil society organizations to help implement the U.N. Guiding Principles. It is important that steps are taken to ensure that these principles reach their intended vision through effective implementation."

Finalized in March 2011 by UN Special Representative John Ruggie, the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights are intended to help operationalize the UN "Protect, Respect and Remedy" Framework. In November 2011, SAI and ICCO partnered to assist in this transformation from principles to practice by developing a Handbook and supplemental training seminars that help companies address questions concerning interpretation, scope, and practical integration. The handbook was released July 2012. The first training course in the Netherlands took place 17-18 September, to be followed by Bangalore, India (November 27-28) and Brazil (TBC).

Special thanks to SAI Development Manager Eliza Wright and DIHR's Human Rights & Business Advisor Paloma Muñoz Quick for conceptualizing and coordinating the development of this program.

Key Resources

Project Outcomes:


UNGP Handbooks:

During the course of the project SAI produced three GPs Handbooks that provide practical information and implementation tools for a variety of stakeholders. The GPs Handbooks consist of two sections: the first section summarizes the GPs, while the second provides contextual information on each of the major human rights risks in local context and recommendations for roles companies, governments and civil society organizations on how to address these human rights risks. 

The Handbooks were developed from several sources: “The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: A Six-Step Approach to Supply Chain Implementation Handbook,” developed by SAI in partnership with the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO); the DIHR Country Guides; and research conducted by SAI staff and gathered from the project’s multi-stakeholder advisory committees. 

Five GPs Handbooks were produced during the project: one for each project country and two that were translated into the local languages for Bangladesh and Nicaragua. These GP Handbooks were validated by project participants, including the project partners.
Case Studies: 
Three case studies were included in the project in order to provide useful, practical examples of how specific organizations are implementing the GPs in their specific context. The case studies are intended to track the changes that occur in an organization’s operations as it implements the GPs. All three case studies follow a similar narrative: At first, the subjects were generally unaware of the GPs. Then, they participated in capacity-building activities and received technical assistance to learn about the GPs. As a result of those activities, they took steps to incorporate the GPs into their business practices and future plans.
In all three countries, SAI’s Social Fingerprint® was used to conduct a baseline assessment and gap analysis of a company’s implementation of the GPs. Social Fingerprint® is a program of ratings, training and tools to help companies measure and improve their management systems for labor compliance. It measures nine aspects of a company’s management system and assigns ratings based on a 1 to 5 point scale (1= immature; 5=mature). The nine management system aspects are ordered logically by operation, meaning that the first aspect is necessary for the next to function, and so on. The nine management system aspects are: 
  • Policies and Procedures
  • International Social Performance Team
  • Worker Involvement and Communication
  • Complaint Management and Resolution
  • Level and Type of Non-Conformance
  • Progress on Corrective Actions
  • External Verification and Stakeholder Engagement
  • Training and Capacity Building
  • Management of Suppliers and Contractors
In Bangladesh and Nicaragua, SAI’s Social Fingerprint® Assessment was used to set both a baseline and final measurement to show that the two assessed companies effectively incorporated the GPs into their business practices. The scores are intended to illustrate improvements in the maturity of the organizations’ human rights management system.
The Zimbabwe case study focused on CRD, a civil society organization in Zimbabwe. CRD used Social Fingerprint® to assess Zimbabwean mining companies’ human rights management systems, thereby equipping them with the vocabulary and tools to engage and build relationships with businesses.
The first Social Fingerprint® assessments were performed before technical assistance was provided to each case study subject. The initial assessments helped identify the largest gaps in the organizations’ operations that needed to be addressed to effect improvement. Improvement plans were subsequently set with each organization and technical assistance was provided. After a period of at least six months, final Social Fingerprint® assessments were conducted to assess the improvements each organization took or planned to undertake.

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