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Human Rights Metrics: Reaching scale through the Sustainable Finance agenda


26 Sep 2018


Euro & Finance


-European and international experts discussed reaching scale on high-quality human rights metrics through the sustainable finance agenda at recent event jointly organised by ShareAction and ACCA in Brussels-

The role of human rights in the EU Sustainable Finance agenda, while indispensable, is currently limited, with one of the reasons for this misalignment being the lack of reliable data. Figures on how corporate activity influences - and is influenced-  by human rights is indeed available at a much lesser extent than similar data on climate or environmental impacts. In addition, when available, such information is often presented in formats not useful to investors, who are increasingly interested in standardized, concise and meaningful information to guide their risk management. These limitations subsequently cascade down the investment chain, preventing an accurate assessment of how the financial system impacts and is impacted by human rights.

To bring light on the limitations and opportunities related to the measurement, collection and reporting of human rights metrics, ShareAction and ACCA (the association of Chartered Certified Accountants) partnered for a lively conference in Brussels. A wide range of European and international experts examined the state-of-play of human rights data, and ‘translated’ lessons learnt into concrete recommendations to reach scale on high-quality human rights metrics through the sustainable finance agenda.

Catherine Howarth, CEO of ShareAction said: “Today’s event brought together an impressive range of human rights experts, investors, civil society leaders and legislators to engage constructively with the opportunity presented by the EU’s Sustainable Finance agenda. Collectively, we acknowledge and welcome the ambition of these legislative proposals but we call on the Commission to recognise that to be credible, sustainable finance must be socially sustainable. Europe deserves, indeed needs, humane as well as green financing of its economy to serve the public interest.”

Speakers in the first panel session shared with the audience how they evaluate the key barriers and opportunities in their day-to-day activities, and how could these barriers be overcome and opportunities capitalized on.

Jimmy Greer, head of Sustainability at ACCA, who moderated the first panel said: “High quality information that comes from meaningful engagement and evaluation by business on human rights issues is a critical component of building better economies and an essential piece of making finance more sustainable.

Activating all actors in this space involves getting to grips with wide-ranging human rights impact areas; making the most of the tools that exist to evaluate progress and coming together to form multi-stakeholder partnerships that find new ways to push this agenda forward.”

Participants also heard a presentation on the Human Rights Measurement Initiative, the first global initiative meant to track the human rights performance of governments with Anne-Marie Brook, the Co-founder and Development Lead of the initiative, joining through video call from New Zealand.

Paul Tang, MEP and rapporteur on the disclosure regulation on environmental, social and governmental responsibilities for financial market participants said: “It is important to take sustainable finance out of the ‘green corner’ and make it mainstream. In the report, ‘disclosure’ has been complemented with the introduction of ‘due diligence’. Every investor needs to have a duty to take ESG factors into account. Not just for the financial but also non-financial impact. This should apply for every participant of the financial market and every product, not just for products with labels.

Stakeholders in Brussels have been very involved and helpful in drafting legislation but it is equally important to engage the member states on these issues. Achieving majority in the European Parliament is totally feasible, but it will require hard work in the Council", Paul Tang stressed.

The two exchanges of views sessions focused respectively on civil society and independent initiatives in driving high-quality human rights data; and on labour rights and measuring impact in core workforce and supply chain. The last panel discussed the role for human rights metrics in the EU’s Taxonomy for Sustainable Investments.

In her keynote remarks summarizing highlights of the discussion, Cristina Tébar Less, Head of the OECD Responsible Business Conduct Unit stressed: “ Incorporating social and human rights components into the EU’s approach to sustainable finance  includes changing approaches that are intrinsic to the financial system, such as short termism and a focus on financial sustainability, an inward-looking view of risk management, and a focus on ‘quantitative’ data,  towards a longer term view, taking an outward approach to risk management, and the use of  ‘qualitative data’. We all want to change behaviours and to achieve engagement. Metrics and indicators are extremely important in this process – when we talk without having evidence, we are just expressing an opinion. When we have data and can compare behaviours, that’s when things can really change.

But having metrics is not enough, nor is the absence of good metrics a reason not to act. Ultimately, what counts is what is done with the data and how it is integrated into decisions and strategies ”, Cristina Tébar Less concluded.



Notes to editor

About ACCA


For media enquiries, contact ACCA Brussels office

Cécile Bonino,  Head of EU Affairs, or +32 (0) 2 286 11 37

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants, offering business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management.

ACCA supports its 208,000 members and 503,000 students in 179 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. ACCA works through a network of 104 offices and centres and more than 7,300 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through its public interest remit, ACCA promotes appropriate regulation of accounting and conducts relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence.

ACCA is currently introducing major innovations to its flagship qualification to ensure its members and future members continue to be the most valued, up to date and sought-after accountancy professionals globally.

Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. More information is here:


About ShareAction

ShareAction’s vision is a world where ordinary savers and institutional investors work together to ensure our communities and environment are safe and sustainable for all. Our mission is to unleash the positive potential of the mainstream investment system. To do this: We’re building a movement for change in our investment system by working with people inside and outside the industry to challenge the status quo; We’re unlocking the positive potential of the investment system by working with large and small investors to change unsustainable corporate practices; We’re reforming the investment system by advocating for change in the policies, governance, and incentives that drive behaviours in the investment industry. 



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