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The activities of businesses impact the lives of millions of people worldwide. Even small enterprises have value chains that span continents. This means that all businesses can play an important role in respecting and promoting human and labor rights.

U.S. companies working and collaborating with partners overseas are one of the most effective and critical communicators of the importance of human and labor rights . They have the capacity to raise local wages, improve local working conditions, and build trust with local communities around their overseas business operations.

Three multilateral documents that help guide businesses in creating practices to respect human and labor rights are the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises; and the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Consistent with these three documents, the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor partners with companies, civil society, and like-minded governments to promote respect for human and labor rights in business operations. We lead policy efforts to disseminate and implement the Guiding Principles and ILO Declaration, engage in multi-stakeholder initiatives, and work to find solutions to urgent human rights and policy issues involving business. We also coordinate with the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs’ Responsible Business Conduct Unit to disseminate and implement the OECD Guidelines.

Our Approach

Promote and Protect: Fostering implementation of international human rights law and developing commitments in the global business and human rights space with key stakeholders

Convene and Facilitate: Creating a space for emerging and critical issues to be debated among relevant stakeholder groups

Develop and Implement: Establishing tools, training and guidance for U.S. government officials to be more effective envoys on business and human rights

Tools for U.S. Business and Civil Society

U.S. Department of State Guidance on Implementing the UN Guiding Principles for Transactions Linked to Foreign Government End-Users for Products or Services with Surveillance Capabilities
This guidance is a first-of-its-kind tool intended to provide practical and accessible human rights guidance to U.S. businesses seeking to prevent their products or services with surveillance capabilities from being misused by government end-users to commit human rights abuses. Read more about this guidance.

Xinjiang Supply Chain Business Advisory
The advisory highlights the risks for businesses with supply chain links to entities complicit in forced labor and other human rights abuses in Xinjiang and throughout China. Read more about the Advisory.

U.S. Government Efforts to Advance Business and Human Rights in 2020
This document is meant to provide an illustrative snapshot of the work undertaken in this regard over the past year. Read the document. 

North Korea Sanctions & Enforcement Actions Advisory
Businesses should be aware of deceptive practices employed by North Korea, which could expose businesses to sanctions compliance risks, and implement effective due diligence policies, procedures, and internal controls to ensure compliance with applicable legal requirements across their supply chains. Read more about the Advisory.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future