The debate about companies and human rights is not new, but in recent years it has increased in intensity and there are growing demands for companies to be more transparent and to inform about the possible impact of their activities in this regard.
This is reflected in the progressive establishment of national and international regulatory frameworks, the increase in law suits against companies for abuse and the growing concern among the affected stakeholders (citizens, non-profit organisations, investors, etc.).
The trigger for this change was the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to date the greatest expression of international consensus on this issue and the reference framework for other sustainability standards, both national and international.
The ICT sector plays an important role in the promotion of Human Rights by contributing to the economic development and progress of countries, and by improving people’s quality of life.
What makes this industry special in today’s world is that adoption of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the resulting international pressure coincide with the digital revolution in which we are currently immersed. For this reason, aspects such as privacy, freedom of expression, restriction of contents, etc., are even more important. And that importance is growing with the Internet of Things.
At Telefónica, we are convinced that the evaluation and management of the impact of our activity on human rights are fundamental for the sustainability of our business. In 2002, when we joined the Global Compact, we made a public commitment to respecting them. Since then, we have worked proactively to fulfil that commitment. This is reflected in the fact that, in 2006, respect for human rights became one of the pillars of our code of ethics, the Business Principles.
Both the Chief Privacy Officer and the General Director for Public Affairs and Regulation are in charge of verifying that the rights to privacy and freedom of expression respectively are evaluated in all actions of the company and that adequate risk assessments are carried out. A general human rights impact assessment is revised in Telefónica every 3 years. At present the Chief Privacy Officer is Manuel Crespo de la Mata, and our Director General for Public Affairs and Regulation is Carlos López Blanco.
Based on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights we have developed an express commitment to respecting the human rights of our stakeholders, including our employees, members of the community, customers and business partners, as well as the millions of people who we influence every day through our products and services.
- We respect our employees, defining and implementing exacting labour, environmental, health and safety standards, as well as fair, equitable, high-quality labour conditions.
- We are fully aware that, as a leading global technology provider, our company can help to promote – or be used to impede – Human Rights.
- We extend the responsibility to respect human rights to our business relations. Requiring high performance levels from our supply chain – in labour, environmental and health and safety conditions – is for us a way of promoting and obtaining the best result to achieve changes and thus mitigate the risks related to abusive behaviour in business relations.
- With due consideration to Human Rights and through our products, services and knowledge of the challenges of the local communities, we respond to some of society’s most relevant needs.
- We undertake to explore all relevant opportunities for participation or alliance with external stakeholders to enable us to promote systemic changes and respect for human rights.