As described in the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, while governments have a responsibility to protect the human rights of their people, businesses like ours likewise have a responsibility to respect the human rights of people. We want to address potential adverse impacts to people, and this means taking steps to prevent, mitigate and, where appropriate, remediate.
Our North Star
We understand that long-term success starts with a company’s value system and a principled approach to doing business. Frameworks such as the UN’s Global Compact (UNGC) strongly reflect our values, which is why we’re proud to be not just a signatory, but an active participant with the Compact. Of the UNGC Ten Principles that we have pledged to support and promote, the first six concern human rights.
Our own human rights policy is guided by the UNGC, along with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the principles expressed in the International Bill of Human Rights and the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (the ILO Core Conventions). Our policy covers employees, suppliers, partners and communities, among others. It includes ethical recruitment practices, diversity, antiharassment, unlawful discrimination, support of women’s rights and equal pay, individual privacy, reporting and antiretaliation policies. Suppliers and business partners are expected to comply with laws on safety, individual security, prohibitions on human trafficking and use of underage children, along with laws that ensure freedom of association and rights to collective bargaining.
GM has a zero-tolerance policy against the use of child labor, as stated in our Supplier Code of Conduct and Conflict Minerals Policy. GM prohibits abusive treatment to employees and corrupt business practices in our supply base. We aim to support indigenous people and the communities in which we work and source material. As stated in this policy, we “seek to avoid inadvertent adverse economic impact attributable to conflict mineral due diligence activities.”
During the second half of 2020 and beginning of 2021, we brought together a cross-functional group to review and strengthen our human rights policy. To inform this work, we reviewed two leading human rights policy benchmarks1 and then examined the human rights policies of 10 peer and leading companies to better understand current practice. We talked through each human rights policy section that was identified in the benchmarks and eventually arrived at full consensus for each, aiming to ensure that our updated policy was, at a minimum, in line with current best practice. We look forward to publishing our updated human rights policy later this year.
Identifying Potential Impacts
In order to effectively prevent and mitigate potential impacts to people, an essential early step is to identify what those potential impacts could be and to prioritize them by determining which are the most severe and most likely. There have been high-quality third-party assessments conducted on the automotive industry as a whole, such as those by the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) and Investor Advocates for Social Justice (IASJ), and we believed it was important to create a process that was specific to us. Through this process, we sought to activate and engage leaders from across our entire enterprise and geographic footprint. We believed that engaging with our own people during a series of highly interactive capacity building and exploratory workshops would be an important early step as we work to embed respect for human rights across our business.