Investor Alert: Human Rights Risks Related to the Russian Invasion of Ukraine
As a network of investors engaging our portfolio companies on business and human rights concerns, we recognize the importance of strong national rule of law and adherence to internationally recognized human rights standards to foster peace and prosperity and to guarantee the exercise of democratic rights necessary for a stable business and investment environment. We, therefore, strongly condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an act of aggression and urge businesses and investors to take all necessary measures to ensure that their activities do not cause or contribute to violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, especially against civilians affected by the conflict. The current crisis challenges investors to recognize and respond to the fact that risks to the people of Ukraine translate to financial risks for their portfolio companies.
As states respond to the unfolding crisis, compliance with the array of economic sanctions and export controls on Russian entities and individuals should not be interpreted as fulfillment of businesses’ and investors’ responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). Given the devastating loss of life and property and the heightened risk of severe human rights harms, the UNGPs require enhanced due diligence to identify business and investment ties to the Russian state, their affiliated companies, and other entities/individuals that are arming, financing, resourcing, or otherwise contributing to Russian violations of humanitarian and human rights laws.
Companies and investors with exposure, particularly to at-risk sectors (e.g., weapons, finance, extractives, technology), must map their business activities, relationships, and investments across their value chain to identify and assess human rights risks and harms which they may be causing or contributing to or to which they may be directly linked. Measures must be taken to cease, prevent, and mitigate any actual and potential harms and be regularly publicly reported on. If company and investor due diligence efforts indicate that they cannot avoid causing or contributing to human rights harms, they must consider the responsible termination of those business relationships. Importantly, decisions to disengage from business activities or to divest must be scrutinized for any unintended human rights consequences.
Companies must do everything they can to ensure that workers will not face retaliatory action if they choose to join demonstrations or otherwise exercise their freedom of expression. Companies must also ensure that they do not engage in or support efforts to silence or restrict the activities of human rights defenders.
Companies operating in or with business relationships connected to Ukraine must do everything in their power to protect workers and their families from violence. Ongoing consultation with local and international stakeholders is essential as the situation evolves, with safeguards in place to protect local, consulted stakeholders.
We urge companies and investors to initiate and participate in efforts to use their collective leverage to publicly voice and push for humanitarian and human rights law protections. We also encourage them to support humanitarian efforts with appropriate local and international partners to improve conditions for communities and those affected by the violence.
Together with our investor colleagues and in partnership with our civil society allies, who are closely monitoring the situation on the ground in Ukraine and Russia, we will continue to provide additional information, resources, and guidance for both businesses and investors to address emerging humanitarian and human rights risks as the conflict unfolds.
Additional resources (webinars, investor perspectives, blogs, business guidance, company assessments, etc.) on the Ukraine crisis are available here.