Skip to Main Content
(Press Enter)

Upholding Human Rights

GM is committed to bring everyone along as our business, industry and world make the transition to a lower-carbon future. This includes respecting the human rights of all people.

As described in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), governments have a responsibility to protect the human rights of their people, and businesses such as GM have a responsibility to respect the human rights of people. A key part of this is recognizing and addressing potential adverse impacts a business can have on people throughout its enterprise, and taking steps to prevent, mitigate and, where appropriate, remediate those impacts.

At GM, we understand that long-term success starts with a company’s value system and a principled approach to doing business. In 2021, the Board’s Governance and Corporate Responsibility Committee approved an updated and strengthened Human Rights Policy. The Board also formally added human rights oversight to the Governance and Corporate Responsibility Committee’s annual responsibilities. It regularly reviews GM’s human rights-related policies and strategies and conducts an annual review of GM’s human rights practices and responsible sourcing practices. Other committees of the Board, including the Executive Compensation Committee, the Risk and Cybersecurity Committee and the Audit Committee, also engage with human rights-related matters as needed. For example, when relevant, the Executive Compensation Committee addresses certain human capital management matters, the Risk and Cybersecurity Committee addresses supply chain risks and the Audit Committee oversees GM’s ethics and compliance program.

Human rights is an important issue addressed both by the Board and cross-functionally by senior leaders across the company. Our chief sustainability officer is responsible for GM’s Human Rights Policy and works cross-functionally with GM’s Human Resources; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Labor Relations; Ethics and Compliance; and Global Purchasing and Supply Chain Teams, among others, to understand and address potential human rights risks and impacts.

Highlights from GM’s updated Human Rights Policy include:

  • A commitment to respect all internationally recognized human rights, including those described in the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (the ILO Core Conventions), and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
  • A commitment to respect the rights of human rights defenders, people who speak up on behalf of those whose rights may be threatened. The policy states that GM will “neither tolerate nor knowingly contribute to threats, intimidation or attacks against human rights defenders in relation to our operations” and encourages our suppliers to make the same commitment.
  • An underscored commitment to respect the rights of people who may be particularly vulnerable—Indigenous peoples, women, children, migrant workers and people with disabilities, among others, and our expectation that suppliers share in this commitment.
United Nations Global Compact

GM is a member of the UNGC, which endorses a framework of principles in the areas of human rights, labor, the environment and anticorruption. We are committed to these principles and are actively implementing them. Visit the 2021 Sustainability Supplement for more information.

The Policy applies to all of GM’s global operations, including joint ventures in which we have managerial control, and also contains obligations for suppliers and contractors. The Policy includes ethical recruitment practices, diversity, antiharassment, prohibition of unlawful discrimination, support of women’s rights and equal pay, individual privacy, reporting and nonretaliation policies. Suppliers and business partners we contract with are expected to make commitments to human rights as well, including the ILO’s Core Conventions against forced labor, child labor, discrimination and harassment, and protecting freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Suppliers are also expected to comply with laws on safety and working conditions.

GM’s zero-tolerance policy against the use of child labor, and all forms of modern slavery and forced labor, is stated in our Supplier Code of Conduct and Conflict Minerals Policy. Our Supplier Code of Conduct details our expectations for contacted suppliers and business partners to comply with all laws, including safety, data, freedom of association and collective bargaining laws. The Supplier Code of Conduct also states that suppliers and business partners we contract with will not harass or discriminate against employees, nor tolerate corrupt business practices. Suppliers are expected to cascade similar expectations through their own supply chains.

Communicating Our Commitments

Our goal is to have our entire global workforce understand our commitments, including awareness of our Human Rights Policy and how to access it. To that end, together with our Internal Communications Team, we’ve developed a global communications strategy for our Human Rights Policy that leverages our internal company site (Socrates), our internal announcement and discussion platform (Yammer), our employee resource groups, leadership at each of our global plant locations and location-specific private Facebook pages as channels to reach as much of our global workforce as possible. The Human Rights Policy is available in eight languages to promote ease of access and understanding.

Identifying Potential Impacts

In order to effectively prevent and mitigate potential impacts to people, the UNGPs identify what those potential impacts could be and prioritize them by determining which are the most severe and most likely, in a process known as a human rights saliency assessment. Salient human rights issues for a company are those that are most at risk of the most severe impacts through a company’s activities and business relationships. GM is engaged in a saliency assessment process. In 2021, as a part of this process, we conducted desktop research, reviewed industry analyses and began connecting with external stakeholders. We also held a series of interactive internal capacity building and exploratory workshops with leaders from across the enterprise and our geographic footprint in order to identify and prioritize potential human rights-related impacts.

In the series of workshops with a cross-functional working group, we looked at our value chain, considered potential impacts to people throughout our value chain, and then considered the severity and likelihood of each impact. Through this process, the working group arrived at an initial set of potential impacts to consider. In 2022, GM will refine and validate the potentially salient human rights impacts with internal and external stakeholders.

While we recognize that nearly all of the potential impacts identified are by nature systemic and not limited to GM or even the automotive industry, we take seriously our responsibility to work to identify, prevent, mitigate and remediate potential human rights impacts to which we may contribute, as detailed in our Human Rights Policy.

The results from our initial saliency assessment workshops are an important jumping off point that we will build upon. We recognize that effective, regular stakeholder engagements are an important part of identifying and addressing potential human rights impacts. We view the saliency assessment process as an ongoing exercise with impacts and prioritizations that may, and likely will, change over time.

Preventing and Mitigating Impacts

Historically, we have relied on trainings as a tool to prevent human rights-related issues from arising, as well as robust reporting and internal review mechanisms to rapidly identify and respond to issues, if and when they arise. We will use the findings from our saliency assessment to further strengthen our strategy as we continue to evolve our management of potential human rights impacts.

Read GM’s Anti-Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement.

In the near future, we plan to take a closer look at our salient issues to gain additional understanding of the risks.

In parallel with developing action plans, we intend to build out management systems to enhance understanding, ownership and accountability over our salient issues.

Learn more in Supporting Supplier Responsibility section.

Engaging With Stakeholders

Stakeholder engagement is an important part of addressing human rights matters. We value the relationships that we have formed with many of our stakeholders and look forward to future opportunities to connect, learn and collaborate.

We engage with stakeholders through many forums. We believe it is important to hear directly from stakeholders, or their representatives, who may be impacted by our business. It is through these conversations that trust is built, and they provide an invaluable opportunity for us to learn and to co-create potential solutions, when appropriate.

For example, through dialogues facilitated by the Development Partnership Institute, we engaged with representatives of Indigenous mining communities in a number of countries, including Australia and Canada. From these conversations, we heard concerns that Indigenous interests and perspectives were frequently not included in sustainability-related frameworks, despite claims of inclusivity and comprehensiveness. We also heard that Indigenous people appreciate opportunities to engage in and more fully understand the value chain. In response, we are actively exploring opportunities to build relationships and communication channels with communities closer to the origin of our supply chains.

One example of this is our engagement with multistakeholder initiatives such as the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber, which includes smallholder farmers from sourcing regions in Asia and Africa.

We are also working to further bolster our due diligence processes and have announced a new partnership with the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance to promote comprehensive third-party assessments and certifications, in addition to continuing to work closely with the Responsible Minerals Initiative, as discussed in the Supply Chain section. Additionally, we are updating our Supplier Code of Conduct to emphasize our expectation that all suppliers share in our commitments to respect human rights. We are also expanding our compliance efforts to gain more insight into whether suppliers are living up to expectations. In 2022, we plan to launch a new platform that will help educate and build supplier capacity around human rights and other critical sustainability areas.