Kakuzi becomes the first local firm to establish an Independent Human Rights Advisory Committee to the Board

Local agri-business firm Kakuzi PLC has, in a trendsetting move announced the appointment of an Independent Human Rights Advisory Committee (IHRAC) to be chaired by former Attorney General Prof Githu Muigai.

With the appointment of the committee to its Board, Kakuzi PLC becomes the first corporate organization in Sub Sahara Africa to constitute and establish such an independent advisory panel benchmarked against the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

In appointing the IHRAC, Kakuzi joins a growing list of globally focused institutions’ progressively adopting the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, such as football governing body FIFA, Global Chemicals manufacturer BASF SE, Adidas, among others.

Speaking when he confirmed the appointment of the IHRAC, Kakuzi PLC Managing Director Chris Flowers said the committee would provide independent technical advisory to the firm’s Board of Directors. He said such technical advisory and expertise would guarantee sustainable compliance with global human rights matters across the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) listed firm’s operations.

Alongside the IHRAC body, Kakuzi, he said, has also enacted an Operational-level Grievance Mechanism also benchmarked against the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Members of the Prof Githu chaired IHRAC, include former Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) Board, Member Grace Madoka, former Finlays Kenya Legal and HR Director Dr Brenda Achieng, and Kakuzi Plc non-executive independent director Andrew Ndegwa with another member set to be announced soon. Both Ms Madoka and Dr Achieng are Advocates of the High Court of Kenya and have extensive corporate governance experience, while Mr Ndegwa is a Chartered Accountant.

“As part of our core values, the Board of Kakuzi PLC is sincerely committed and desirous of strengthening end to end efforts to ensure that human rights are respected in all our operations. The appointment of this IHRAC committee underscores this commitment to voluntarily protect, respect and remedy any human rights grievances as a responsible business practices,” Mr Flowers said.

On his part, Kakuzi IHRAC Chairman Prof Githu Muigai said: “Kakuzi is pioneering a public accountability programme demonstrating its commitment to respecting human rights within its operating and supply chain environment. The members of the IHRAC are meant to autonomously advise and review Kakuzi’s action points to ensure that the firm remains at the leading edge of this accountability programme. Above all else, adopting an IHRAC is advantageous to all stakeholders. Human rights standards are fundamental standards that lead to better business accountability. Adoption of IHRAC is an idea whose time has come and one that I would strongly recommend.”

Prof Githu said he recommends the idea of IHRAC adoption by other local companies to advance Human Rights in corporate environments. While advocating for the adoption of the IHRAC standards benchmarked against the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, he further said such a committee is advantageous to all stakeholders, including government, business, civil society and even to the people working within the enterprises. He noted that addressing human rights issues leads to a better organization with a motivated workforce, where stakeholders human rights are upheld.

The UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights recently released an assessment of the first ten years of UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights implementation by States and businesses.

The UN Working Group noted that: “There has been significant progress over the first decade, as witnessed by a growing number of companies committing to respect human rights and a recent surge of legislation in Europe making respect for human rights and the environment a mandatory requirement for businesses.”

While still slow, these critical developments, the UN Working Group said, demonstrate emerging awareness around the human rights responsibilities of business that did not exist a decade earlier. The Guiding Principles have also provided unions, affected communities and civil society with a framework for demanding accountability for business-related harm to people and the planet.

“All States must make the implementation of the Guiding Principles a top governance and policy priority. All businesses – including small and medium-sized enterprises – need to make respect for human rights part of their corporate culture. We call on States and businesses to step up and all stakeholders to take part in the movement to make the next ten years a decade of action on the Guiding Principles.” Said the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights in its media communique.

In December this year, the Working Group will launch a roadmap for implementation over the next decade.