Investing and doing business in South Africa take place in a human rights context. The term “human rights” is a shorthand description for the relatively complex sets of laws, codes, approaches and lived experience which inform doing business in South Africa. Business is part of society, not apart from it, and as such it needs to be seen as part of the solution to social obstacles. The social responsibility of business is thus not optional but mandatory.
The overarching framework for the human rights context is the South African Constitution, Act 108 of 1996, the highest applicable law in South Africa. All other laws and best practice guidelines must adhere to it. The Constitution guarantees a number of rights, relevant within the environment of doing business. Moreover, the Constitution recognises that corporations as juridical persons are bound by fundamental rights.
Various laws contain detailed provisions on these constitutional rights and there is also legislation that governs corporate social responsibility. Additionally, the King Code of Corporate Governance, which integrates governance, strategy and sustainability, reflects a value system based on the social responsibility of business.
It is against this background that the relevance of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights must be understood in the South African context. While the Guiding Principles provide guidelines for both states and business, the focus here is on the guidelines pertaining to business. The Guiding Principles for the first time provide a language and an analytic framework to understand the scope of business responsibility for human rights as distinct from the state responsibility for rights. Understanding, implementing and embracing the Guiding Principles is a human rights opportunity for business.
“Investing and doing business in South Africa take place in a human rights context.”
For a comprehensive document outlining the implications of this area of law in South Africa