We were one of the original companies to sign the UN Global Compact - the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, which sets out principles for responsible business. We’re also committed to implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UN Guiding Principles) which sets out expectations for respecting human rights.1 These principles help us understand how our business might affect human rights, and what we need to do – and show publicly – to address that.2
In 2014 we decided to review how our UK operations were performing against those commitments. We looked at our potential effect on employees, customers, workers in our supply chain and communities in which we operate. (We focussed on the UK because it’s where our mass-market consumer business is based.)3
We saw we could toughen our policy commitment with more detailed guidance. We found we could strengthen our governance with deeper engagement across the business, adopting more formal processes. To make sure we implement what we found, we have established a human rights steering group, sponsored by a member of our Operating Committee.4 We also concluded that we could be more open about how we focus on our main potential impacts on human rights: privacy and free expression. That’s why this report focuses on these two themes.
1 The UN Guiding Principles refer to internationally recognised human rights as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as the principles set out in the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.
2 A number of industry initiatives and guidelines have been established to address the specific impacts of communications providers on the rights to privacy and free expression, most notably the Global Network Initiative and the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue.
3 The way the internet works means that communications will often pass through many networks in many countries. Outside the UK, each country will make its own decisions about the issues raised in this report.