Human rights training and capacity building

The internal human rights training programs at ABB – one to raise awareness of human rights, the other to build capacity – are based on the United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), and draw heavily on practical examples from the company’s value chain.

Started in 2011, the same year as the UNGPS were formally endorsed by all nations, the courses had two targets: one was deliver mainly face-to-face training to middle and senior managers to raise their awareness of human rights risks in operations, and their ability to identify, mitigate and avoid risks; the other was to build capacity among a group of employees around the world who would be sufficiently trained to be able to advise the business on challenges or dilemmas.

The basic training for both programs is similar: It covers what human rights are, where ABB would expect to see human rights impacts in its operations, the expectations that key stakeholders – governments, customers, suppliers, investors, civil society and employees – have of the company’s performance, and the key international laws and standards that set the framework for the corporate responsibility to respect human rights.

With the emphasis on the need for good due diligence, the courses then look at how ABB can cause or contribute to human rights impacts, positively and negatively. ABB case studies, mainly from the project business and supply chain, are used to highlight where the main challenges can arise. Potential human rights violations within the company such as different forms of harassment and discrimination are also discussed.

Managers are informed during the awareness raising course of what good and early due diligence looks like in the ABB context, and how they should react if there are concerns of negative human rights impacts.

Most of the awareness training sessions have been given to management teams in countries exposed to human rights risks. This includes countries where local risks may be low, but may be considerably higher because projects and the supply chain are located in higher risk countries.

The key to engagement, exemplified by a management training session in Germany in 2016, is to highlight case studies from the project business, the negative human and business consequences of labor and human rights issues in the supply chain, and the expectations underpinning national legislation, including national action plans on business and human rights.

To complement the awareness raising program for managers, certain employees were invited to take part in a capacity building course to enable them to advise the business on likely or actual human rights dilemmas.

Emphasis is given in this course to understanding recent international laws and standards which frame business and human rights. This starts with the launch of the UN Global Compact in 1999, covers the UNGPs, OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and International Labour Organisation conventions, and concludes with current regulation and legislation on conflict minerals, human trafficking and modern slavery in the United States and United Kingdom, and national action plans outlining government expectations of corporate performance.

In addition, they are given training on carrying out due diligence, what to do if negative human rights impacts are suspected or arise, and are informed about the external expert resources available to support ABB on these issues.

There are also other forms of training across the company. They range from sessions focused on one issue, such as those in 2016 for supply chain managers on human trafficking and modern slavery, to additional information on human rights for sustainability experts. Online training is also available.

Ensuring that human rights are understood and well managed at ABB is one of the goals of the ABB Sustainability Objectives 2014-2020. The key performance indicators for 2016 were for 600 managers to have been covered by awareness raising training and for a network of advisors to have been launched, based on the capacity building training. Both goals were reached, and further targets will be set.