Human Rights Due Diligence Info Portal

FAQ - How to use the Human Rights Capacity Diagnostic

The Human Rights Capacity Diagnostic (HRCD) is a self-assessment tool. Below you will find some questions and answers which will help you understand the rationale behind the tool and how you can best apply it to your business.

When completing the questions in the HRCD, you are asked to evaluate where your company stands within a spectrum of possible answers. The descriptions are intended to serve as guidance for assessing your company’s capacity. The answers correspond to six maturity levels from “Non-responsive” to “Showing Leadership”. As a general rule, higher levels on the spectrum include the elements of lower levels. This means that under each question the higher response levels include the core elements mentioned in lower response levels and add an additional feature or characteristic that is specific to the higher level. However, progression from level to level is not strictly linear!

 

As the HRCD is intended for use by companies of different sizes and sectors the answers are kept broad. The descriptions of the levels under each question serve as an orientation for making choices. You don’t necessarily need to have all elements of one level in place in order to opt for this level. In some cases, you will feel that you are between two levels. If so, please attempt to choose the category that you think corresponds better to the current performance of your company. For some questions descriptions are only provided for five out of the six response levels. The sixth level then reads “no additional requirements”. Please choose this level when you feel your company entirely and constantly fulfils the requirements for level five. 

 

For a general overview of the levels behind the colour spectrum see the graph below.

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Overview Capacity Levels
Overview Capacity Levels

While there is a progression from “Non-responsive” to “Leadership” set out in the assessment instrument, it is not the intention to suggest that it is appropriate for all companies to reach “Strategic Integration” or “Showing leadership”. Rather, the intention of the diagnostic is to raise awareness about where the company is now, whether there is consistency or discrepancy across the company, how it compares to its peers and what is appropriate for it to aspire to.

 

How companies meet their responsibility to respect human rights will vary according to their operational context, size, sector and their specific human rights risk profile. The risk profile and required management capacity of a small or medium sized company operating, selling and sourcing mainly from central European countries will differ from a large multinational company with complex supply chains in countries with specific human rights challenges in the Global South (see also question 5 for SMEs). Each company therefore needs to decide what internal capacity they need to allocate in order to manage their human rights risks effectively. Therefore, the detailed processes employed by a bank differ to an energy provider, whose processes differ to an agriculture-based company. They will also be different between a large multinational and a small company with a limited number of suppliers and sites. Companies should keep this in mind as they rank their performance and aspirations.


Part of this assessment’s utility is to enable you to define what you deem appropriate given the profile of your company. For example, an extractive company working in extreme environments may aspire to a different level of capacity compared to a logistics company working only in one developed country. A project-oriented company might aim at the level of “Proactive Experimentation” while for a company that faces some cross-cutting human rights issues the level of “Strategic Integration” might be more appropriate. However, the difference between where the company is now, and where it wants to be, is the journey there is to go on.

As responsibility for human rights is often shared among different corporate functions several people within your company might find aspects of the HRCD relevant for their work. If you are responsible for sustainability within your company, you may use the HRCD yourself to get a general overview of your company’s capacities to manage human rights related issues. However, the companies that have road-tested the HRCD and its predecessor the Organisational Capacity Assessment Instrument (OCAI) reported that the greatest value comes from this capacity assessment when it is used within a dialogue process, not as a box ticking exercise.

 

The HRCD is best applied as part of an interactive workshop that includes representatives from different business functions (such as human resources, procurement, compliance, health and safety, projects/operations etc.). Such an inclusive approach allows you to get different perspectives on your company’s current performance. Moreover, such an interactive dialogue could serve as a starting point for designing or adapting a concrete road map of actions to undertake in the future. Ideally such a workshop should be facilitated by someone with knowledge of business and human rights issues. The HRCD could also be used to gather other stakeholders’, e.g. suppliers’ and business partners’ perceptions to further refine your understanding of the company’s current performance.

 

At the beginning of the dialogue, ensure that the objective of the self-assessment is clearly communicated to the participants and that there is sufficient human rights awareness and commitment. Establishing ownership of the results early on in the process will help you get support and buy-in for the implementation of action plans developed as a result of the assessment
You can apply the assessment to your company as a whole or use it to assess the capacity of certain subsidiaries, sites, business units or business partners. For instance, the tool can be used to compare the capacities of different business functions and help identify gaps and risks in that regard. You can also fill it in with a certain rights category in mind. It can also be used over several years to compare and track progress of a corporate human rights programme over time.

 

To focus on the whole company might be the preferred option for smaller companies or if you are just getting started with the management of human rights issues. If you conduct the assessment with a team of people, make sure that all participants are clear about what the unit of analysis is.

The corporate responsibility to respect human rights applies to all businesses independently of their size and other distinguishing factors. This means that as an SME you have the same responsibility not to negatively impact on the human rights of persons affected by your business activities and relationships as any other company. Also, human rights issues may be as significant for your business as for a large multinational.  

 

Nonetheless, the processes by which you ensure that you respect human rights will differ from that of larger companies. In many cases the management processes your company employs will be more informal and less sophisticated than described in the HRCD. It is helpful to keep that in mind as you go through the tool. As you read the answers, try to identify whether the rationale behind the processes and systems described here mirrors what you have in place in your company.

 

Don’t feel discouraged if you find your company to be on the reactive side of the spectrum. Rather try to identify whether this position is appropriate considering the potential and actual impacts your company/sector has on people’s lives. If you feel that some questions are not relevant for your business at all, you can skip them and proceed to the next question.

The HRCD is designed to help you self-assess your company’s management capacity to implement respect for human rights. Although it includes questions on how your company assesses its risks and impacts on human rights it is not a human rights risk or impact assessment. Nor is it intended to function as an expert compliance check.

The assessment should rather be seen as an opportunity to engage in an internal dialogue process around what a company does and how it wants to perform with regards to human rights. The discussion initiated around the capacity assessment is where its strength lies. The getting started and the advanced practitioners section on this site guide you to resources you can consult if you wish to conduct human rights impact or risk assessments.

The assessment does not necessarily need to be done in the order listed here – although this is recommended in order to focus on all elements of what respecting human rights entails. If you deem it appropriate for your business you might also choose to focus only on one subsection or question and apply it to several subsidiaries or sites, business units, partners or products. You can leave out questions if you think they do not apply to your business. If you do so, it might be helpful to reflect why this is particular issue is not relevant for your company. We recommend you to familiarise yourself with the tool before you decide.