Investor coalition urges ISSB to prioritize reporting on human and worker rights

ShareAction says investor demand for greater volumes of better-quality workforce data ‘is at an all-time high’


Michael Nelson

The International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) has been urged to make human capital and human rights a priority for its next set of global reporting standards.

Some 21 investment firms managing assets of more than $1trn, including Impax Asset Management, EQ Investors, Rathbone Greenbank and Tribe Impact Investment, have signed a letter to the ISSB, coordinated by responsible investment NGO ShareAction.

The letter states investor demand for greater volumes of better-quality workforce data “is at an all-time high” and urges the ISSB to “prioritise researching human capital and human rights disclosure standards in its upcoming two-year work plan”.

“This is an opportunity for the ISSB to set the global reporting baseline needed for investors to be able to understand and take meaningful action on labour and human rights abuses,” said James Coldwell, head of the workforce disclosure initiative at ShareAction.

“We know that workers around the world face exploitation by unscrupulous companies, harming the workers themselves and creating risks for investors. Tackling these issues can only be achieved when there is transparency around corporate practices – something the ISSB is perfectly positioned to deliver. This is why we are calling on them to prioritise research into human capital and human rights, to develop a globally accepted reporting framework.”

Signatories have also called on the ISSB to consider “how to disclose human capital and human rights information together” by addressing the relationships and connections between the two topics. It argues that in practice neither companies nor investors treat the two topics as totally separate areas.

Human rights due diligence processes, for example, are used as key tools for identifying labour issues, when concepts such as unionisation and modern slavery clearly belong to both categories.

The letter follows a recent ShareAction opinion poll showed that a majority (74%) of British adults would have a more negative view of financial institutions that invest in companies which fail to meet human and labour rights standards.

“Covid-19 – and the subsequent mass fluctuation it caused in the labour market – has emphasised just how critical human beings are to the long-term success of any business,” said Vincent Kaufmann, CEO of signatory Ethos Foundation.

“Be it good people management within the workforce, or comprehensive human rights due diligence across the supply chain, an organisation which prioritises human wellbeing stands the best chance of succeeding in the future.

“As the financial materiality of these issues becomes increasingly clear, it is crucial investors have access to comprehensive and comparable social data from businesses to help inform investment decisions. It is imperative the ISSB prioritises developing human capital and human rights standards as soon as possible to help deliver this.”

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