In 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council endorsed the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which has become the global standard on this topic, for the responsibilities of both governments and corporations.
The responsibility for companies to respect human rights means that they must constantly be aware of their real and potential impact on the world, strive for improvement, and be as transparent as possible.
Embedding human rights into company functions is an ongoing process which must always favour continuous improvement over ticking all the boxes as quickly as possible.
Building on these fundamental commitments, BBVA was among the first companies to subscribe to the Equator Principles. BBVA is also a member of the Thun Group of Banks, which works to apply the U.N. Guiding Principles in the finance sector and has also developed specific rules regarding the financing of businesses that have a notable social and environmental impact, such as the defense industry.
BBVA's corporate purpose is to bring the age of opportunity to everyone and respect for human rights is a fundamental part of that mission. As a result, the company is constantly on the lookout for any possible negative impact its business could create in the countries where it operates.
Moved by the growing interest of its stakeholder groups and determined to take a more comprehensive approach to human rights, BBVA in 2016 embarked on an ambitious due diligence process that was completed this year.
It entailed an in-depth review of the bank, using the UN Guiding Principles as a reference and focusing on five areas of analysis:
- Internal (HR and environment)
- Cross-cutting issues (taxes, privacy)
- Businesses involving the bank’s own capital
The results of this analysis will serve as the basis for the Group’s new human rights commitment, which will be published at the end of 2017. In addition, BBVA has created a series of improvement plans for each of the areas analysed, to reduce the shortcomings that were identified.
Considering our 66+ million customers and over 135000 employees across 35 countries, as well as the continuous support to SMEs and transparency and financial literacy, BBVA has an enormous impact on society.
One of the conclusions from the analysis is that BBVA should help in promoting and strengthening respect for human rights beyond its business. This is the background to BBVA’s collaboration with CSR Europe to translate and disseminate the Blueprint for Embedding Human Rights in Key Company Functions into Spanish.
Through the identification of 6 elements for embedding human rights and practical examples of specific measures and initiatives implemented by companies, the blueprint serves as a guide for CSR/Sustainability managers in driving the effort of integrating respect for human rights in their company’s DNA.
CSR Europe’s Blueprint goes a step further and analyses also how the 6 “embedding elements” can be applied to the specific functions of Human Resources, Purchasing and Risk/Legal, clarifying their roles and responsibilities when contributing to the embedding efforts.
Aware from BBVA's own experience of how complex this process can be, the company believes this guide could be very valuable to other companies as well.