Human Rights at Nestlé – Partnership between Nestlé and the Danish Institute for Human Rights

By Christian Frutiger (Nestlé SA)
11:33 AM, April 04, 2012

In 2010, Nestlé entered into a two-year partnership with the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR). The purpose of this collaboration is to ensure that the company’s responsibility to respect human rights is understood and implemented within Nestlé’s global operations, and that the learning from this work can encourage other companies to follow.

The Nestlé-DIHR partnership coincides with the culmination of the mandate of the UN Special Representative for Business and Human Rights (SRSG). Part of the Nestlé-DIHR collaboration is about making the SRSG principles on human rights due diligence operational and practical wherever Nestlé operates.

“The work with the Danish Institute for Human Rights will help us accelerate our journey to become one of the leading companies in the international business and human rights field,” says Jean-Marc Duvoisin, Nestlé’s Global Head of Human Resources.

“There is still a lot that the human rights community and the business community have to learn from each other. We have a responsibility to work together to accomplish the goals that we share,” says DIHR Deputy Director Charlotte Flindt Pedersen.

Corporate human rights gap analysis

The collaboration between Nestlé and DIHR began in 2008, when DIHR carried out a comprehensive human rights gap analysis of all corporate policies, procedures, and systems across eight function areas in Nestlé: Human Resources, Health and Safety; Environment; Security; Products and Marketing; Research and Development; and Supply Chain.

This work fed into the new human rights and labor section of the Nestlé Corporate Business Principles (NCBP), and also led to the introduction in 2010 of the Nestlé Transparency Policy and the Nestlé Employee Relations Policy. In June 2010 the company also formally recognized the human right to water, even before its official recognition by the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.

“This is the most constructive and professional public-private partnership I have seen in a long time,” says Janet Voûte, Nestlé Vice President Public Affairs.

Margaret Jungk, Director of DIHR’s Human Rights and Business Department, notes that “for DIHR this a unique opportunity to influence human rights implementation in a company that touches the lives of millions of people, including workers, consumers, and rural communities, and at the same time we can help develop approaches that can later benefit the wider human rights and business field.”

Human rights impact assessment in Nestlé operations

In 2010 and 2011 the corporate-level human rights gap analysis was followed up with two comprehensive human rights impact assessments by DIHR of Nestlé’s operations in Colombia and Nigeria. These included consultations with trade unions, authorities, NGOs, and farmers in order to analyze the company’s impacts at a local level.

Together with the corporate-level gap analysis, the concrete assessment of potential impacts on the ground provided the company with a 360 degree perspective on current and future human rights and labor challenges.

The impact-assessment process used by DIHR and Nestlé is based on two indicator tools developed by DIHR. The first tool uses a number of Human Rights Impact Scenarios (HRIS) to develop a risk-based mapping of potential human rights impacts. Subsequently, the Human Rights Compliance Assessment tool (HRCA) is used as a benchmark for reviewing the company’s prevention and management of potential human rights impacts.

The use of specific indicators has proved to be effective to better understand human rights issues and engage stakeholders in a meaningful way. The DIHR involved Nestlé’s internal issue owners directly in the assessment and in the development of action plans. This approach has helped Nestlé to ensure that the learning gathered throughout this partnership stays with those who actually manage human rights challenges in their daily operations. This knowledge base will continue to inform the way Nestlé addresses human rights in the years to come.

Next steps

Several more of such impact assessments are being planned for 2011 and 2012. In parallel to this, human rights are being integrated into Nestlé’s Enterprise Risk Management system, and in 2011 a human rights and labor training program will be provided for employees in high-risk countries. Finally, Nestlé’s CARE external audit program will be completely reviewed by Nestlé and the DIHR in order to ensure coverage of the entire NCBP human rights spectrum.


Nestlé is the world’s leading nutrition, health, and wellness company, with 450 factories all over the world – half of them in developing countries. The mandatory Nestlé Corporate Business Principles (NCBP) – endorsed by the Chairman and CEO – guide the behavior of the company’s more than 280,000 employees. A revised version of the NCBP was developed in 2010 and the Human Rights Policy Section (chapter 4) was further expanded. Nestlé recognizes the “corporate responsibility to respect human rights,” as outlined in the UN Framework for Business and Human Rights of John Ruggie, UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights. NCBP compliance is monitored through external audits under the Nestlé CARE program and internally by the Group Audit function.

The Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) is an independent, national human rights institution modeled in accordance with the UN Paris Principles. Established in 1987 by an act of Danish Parliament, DIHR’s mandate encompasses research, education, and implementation of human rights programs in Denmark as well as internationally. With 120 full-time staff, DIHR is operational in more than 30 countries. In 1999 DIHR became one of the first human rights organizations in the world to establish a human rights and business program and has since worked with leading multinational companies in a variety of industry sectors.

About the Author
Frutiger, Christian

Christian P. Frutiger is a dual Swiss and British national. He joined the Public Affairs
Department of Nestlé S.A. in March 2007, coming from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

At Nestlé, Mr. Frutiger is handling human rights issues, relations with major humanitarian and development organizations in Switzerland and globally, participation in the UN Global Compact, as well as Public Affairs communications in French and German.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect CSR Manager's editorial policy.
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