Human rights work has traditionally centered on NGOs, nonprofits, and international organizations. These groups aren’t the only ones with impact and influence, however. The UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights calls on companies to adopt clear human rights policies. Today, people interested in human rights work can find careers that intersect with the business world. Here’s our quick guide on why these jobs matter, what professionals do, how people enter this field, and how much professionals are paid.
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Why are jobs in business and human rights important?
Launched in 2015, the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework is the first comprehensive human rights guidance for companies. It reads: “The actions of business enterprises can affect people’s enjoyment of their human rights either positively or negatively. Indeed, experience shows that enterprises can and do infringe human rights where they are not paying sufficient attention to this risk.”
Companies have a lot to lose by not recognizing their role in human rights. Research from the Business & Human Rights Resource Center found that consumers are increasingly boycotting products and services if they disagree with a business’ stance on an important issue. Employees care, too, and are more likely to remain with and support a company committed to social responsibility. The issue goes beyond what benefits or harms a company. Companies have the power to help or harm global human rights, so for those committed to protecting human rights, focusing on business and holding corporations accountable can have a big impact.
What do professionals working in business and human rights do?
Professionals can find jobs in accounting and consulting firms, international organizations, national government agencies, think tanks, and a range of NGOs. Many of these jobs focus on “corporate social responsibility,” also known as CSR. Organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank have been promoting CSR in recent years. Here are five examples of jobs that you can find in CSR and human rights/business in general:
What impact does a company have on human rights? How can an industry improve its human rights impact? Researchers explore these questions and collect relevant data. Researchers in business and human rights have the same types of skills that general researchers do: strong analytical skills, excellent communication, excellent writing skills, and knowledge of research methodologies. For more specifics, we looked at a researcher position from Devex, a social enterprise and media platform for the global development community. The job focuses on technology, so applicants need a post-graduate qualification and at least five years of experience working on technology’s impact on human rights, democracy, or society. Responsibilities include leading research projects, writing research reports, and building a network of media contacts on Big Tech issues.
Corporate social responsibility analyst
Researchers and analysts both work with data, but analysts focus more on the “back end” of the research process. They’re responsible for compiling and analyzing larger, more complicated data sets and drawing conclusions. Professionals with degrees in finance, economics, or business can pursue jobs as CSR analysts. Responsibilities include examining and analyzing data sets on topics like energy usage, human rights, social impact, public opinion, and more. Qualifications vary depending on the seniority of the role, but some entry-level jobs are asking for 2 years of professional experience in the field or related fields (like sustainable business) and a bachelor’s degree.
More and more businesses are investing in diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. They hire consultants who are experts in the field to perform intakes, define an organization’s DEI goals, and evaluate and assess progress. Consultants often organize training sessions and workshops, as well. Most organizations want consultants with at least a master’s degree, though consultants with professional certificates and lots of experience are also often hired. Educational backgrounds in communication, psychology, and social sciences are common.
Sustainability professionals come from backgrounds in environmental management, so they’re experienced in analysis, research, and more. Specific careers include environmental engineers, consultants, sustainability managers, and sustainability directors. Responsibilities can include viewing the company’s work, analyzing documents, presenting recommendations, and training employees on sustainability initiatives. The global energy sector frequently hires sustainability experts to investigate wind and solar power. Professionals interested in combating climate change – which has a huge impact on human rights – are a good fit for this job.
Monitoring and evaluation project manager
Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems assess how projects and programs are doing. Governments, international organizations, and NGOs all use M&E to track and improve their success. M&E managers (who can work as advisors or consultants to companies when they have lots of experience) are essential to project management. Responsibilities include developing an M&E plan, designing monitoring and data collection tools, analyzing quantitative and qualitative data, and summarizing findings. Most companies want job candidates with a master’s level qualification in the social sciences, as well as experience in M&E.
What organizations offer jobs in business and human rights?
Many types of businesses offer jobs in human rights, so it’s becoming easier for professionals interested in human rights to enter that world. Here are five examples:
This independent and international nonprofit – in its own words – “works with everyone to advance human rights in business and eradicate abuse.” Through Regional Researchers, the Centre travels to local communities to talk to officials and businesspeople about business impacts. The Centre also releases briefings and analyses; makes recommendations to companies, governments, regions, and sectors; and helps NGOs and communities hold companies accountable for abuses. The Centre’s website is the only global business and human rights knowledge hub. Job opportunities include research assistants, consultants, and more.
The IHBR is an international think tank committed to policy, human rights practice, and accountability. With a presence in places like Singapore, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA, IHBR has set up initiatives and other organizations like the Centre for Sports and Human Rights and the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark. Since its founding in 2009, IHBR has focused on climate change, global supply chains, inequality, migrant workers, technology, and more. It holds special consultative status with the United Nations and produces practical briefings, in-depth reports, and regular commentaries.
The UK-based ETI monitors the supply chains of member NGOs and companies. Its mission is to bring the corporate, voluntary, and trade union communities together to address major issues. When members sign on, they commit to the ETI Base Code of Labor Practice, which is based on the International Labour Organization standards. ETI provides companies with training sessions and programs on how to apply the Base Code and improve their supply chains. Members include Aldi (foundation stage), GoodWeave, Tesco, and Body Shop International.
Verité is a nonprofit civil society organization founded in 1995. It partners with hundreds of governments, civil society organizations, and corporations to shine a light on labor rights violations in supply chains. Its goal is to provide businesses with tools to eliminate labor abuses; empower workers to advocate for their rights; create public resources; and provide expertise on human rights policy. Verité has worked in over 70 countries with networks in North America, South America, Africa, Asia. and Australia.
Article One is a “specialized strategy and management consultancy” that focuses on human rights, social impact, and responsible innovation. In their human rights offering, Article One works with businesses on things like corporate human rights and strategies; child rights impact assessments; human rights training; and grievance mechanisms and remedy frameworks. Article One also works with international organizations like UN agencies and development finance institutions on projects like research reports and engagement with the private sector. Clients include Microsoft, HP, Hasbro, Target, and more.
How can you pursue a career in business and human rights?
There isn’t one pathway to a career in business and human rights. The field is fairly new, so many professionals come from other backgrounds and transfer the skills they gained there. That said, many organizations look for degrees in social sciences, business, and finance. There are a handful of master’s degrees in corporate social responsibility, sustainable management, and similar fields. You can also go into business and human rights with an educational background in human rights, though you will also need some knowledge of and/or experience in the business world. You can find workshops, training sessions, certificates, and conferences that help with the transfer.
Worried that you don’t have enough corporate or business savvy? Let’s say you’ve only worked for nonprofits and want to move to the business world. In your resume, highlight business-relevant skills like leadership, strategy-building, problem-solving, and excellent communication. Make it clear why your nonprofit experience isn’t a strike against you, but rather an asset to a company that wants to improve its human rights impact.
How much do business and human rights professionals get paid?
There is a range of salaries in the business and human rights field. According to Salary.com, a corporate social responsibility manager in the USA makes between $100,300-$142,300 a year. Sustainability managers make about the same. ZipRecruiter lists monitoring and evaluation careers as $35,000-$120,000. Consultants, including DEI consultants, tend to make high salaries since they are usually experts with many years of experience. Regardless of the job, many human rights professionals earn more than they would in the nonprofit sector because large businesses can often pay handsomely. The usual factors apply – specific job, level of education, seniority, and geography.
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