Updating Our Statement on Human Rights
By Val Smith, Head of Corporate Sustainability and Ariel Meyerstein, SVP, Corporate Sustainability December 10, 2018 02:00 PM
Over the course of more than 200 years of history, Citi and our clients around the world have enabled considerable economic growth and progress. But that upward trajectory has often been tumultuous, with the benefits of progress not always universally shared. Seventy years ago today, the atrocities of World War II inspired a group of governments to recognize a set of principles designed to curb rampant abuses of power and protect individual autonomy and dignity. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights that they signed is a social contract for humanity that calls on “every organ of society” – including business – to promote respect for the “inalienable rights of all members of the human family.”
In honor of the Declaration’s 70th anniversary Citi has published an updated Statement on Human Rights. First announced over a decade ago, the Statement has served as a living expression of our corporate commitment to respect human rights in their numerous forms. As awareness evolved, Citi’s support for human rights has manifested in such pioneering new policy approaches and industry standards as the Equator Principles. Our adherence to those principles, which we co-founded in 2003, enhances our ability to identify and work to mitigate the risks associated with our business activities. As new approaches emerged, including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, we have sought to integrate those frameworks into our policies and guidelines. We have also emphasized transparency about our efforts in our annual Global Citizenship Report, first published in 2000.
In addition to seeking to “do no harm,” our aim has been to support the enjoyment of human rights by enabling progress through initiatives related to financial inclusion, sustainable cities, and youth economic empowerment. As a corporate citizen, we use our voice to stand up for what we believe is right on human rights issues that matter to our employees, clients, investors and communities. Whether that means expressing our vocal support of immigrants’ rights in the United States, making strides on pay equity and representation across gender and ethnicities, advocating on behalf of the LGBTQ community or taking a stand in support of responsible firearms sales practices in the United States, we have not shied away from difficult issues when we know that speaking out puts us on the right side of progress.
As we look to the future, our updated Statement on Human Rights will continue to guide our principled approach to the human rights risks we face across our value chain, including the prevention of discrimination in our retail lending and other business practices and honoring diversity for all our employees. The Statement also acknowledges emerging areas of concern, including risks to the privacy rights of our employees and our customers in the fast-evolving world of digitalized financial services, in addition to the widespread impacts on human rights posed by climate change. We recognize that giving effect to these rights will also mean working closely with our clients to ensure appropriate human rights risk assessments and, when impacts occur, supporting them in providing effective remedies to those harmed. Continuing to do this at the scale required of a global bank like Citi will require continuous collaboration with our clients while paying close attention to all our stakeholders’ concerns. Achieving the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration remains a global challenge 70 years later, but one we are committed to meeting every day.
*Tagged as: Global