The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights endorse a risk management perspective of human rights due diligence, which may create ambiguities with regard to the nature of risk and the objectives of risk management. By ‘human rights risk’ we understand a business enterprise’s potential adverse human rights impacts. Human rights risk can be contrasted to an enterprise’s ‘social risk’ which refers to the actual and potential leverage that people or groups of people with a negative perception of corporate activity have on the business enterprise’s value.
This article puts forward the argument that due diligence in respect of human rights risk is conceptually incompatible with the management of social risk, because social risk management and human rights due diligence vary at each step of the risk management process (risk identification, risk measurement and assessment, risk reduction measures). To resolve this incompatibility, an effective integration of human rights due diligence processes into corporate risk management systems would require an elevation of human rights respect to a corporate goal that determines corporate strategy.