In June 2011 the United Nations Human Rights Council endorsed a set of Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, developed by John Ruggie (UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights), which include the global corporate duty to respect human rights and the need for effective remedies when abuses occur.

Earlier this year, the European Commission announced that it would work with stakeholders to develop human rights guidance for three industrial sectors, based on the UN Guiding Principles. These sectors are: employment and recruitment agencies, information and communication technology (ICT) and oil and gas. The current deadline for completion of the guidance is April 2013, with a public consultation from December 2012. It committed also to publishing a report on EU priorities for the further implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The International Organisation of Employers has criticised the discussion papers published by the EU project team to date, for example, stating its view that they are overly critical of business and go beyond human rights issues.

Given the increasing trend to view employment and labour practices (including the practices of suppliers) through a human rights lens, the growing resolve by the UN, ILO and OECD to assert more effectively minimum global labour standards and the mounting ethical awareness among customers and investors, the Ruggie Principles merit close attention by HR, Legal and CSR professionals as part of a global labour relations strategy.