Week of 24 May 2021
How can companies create effective human rights-related indicators?
Our key takeaway: Effective indicators are important, because they help ensure that companies deliver improved outcomes for workers, consumers and communities. Effectiveness includes focusing on measuring the desired changes in human behaviour (rather than focusing on outputs), and including stakeholders in the process of designing indicators
Shift published an Indicator Design Tool to help companies design indicators that effectively measure the progress of human rights initiatives and programs. Effective indicators are important because they “help users learn about what is working and why in order to make evidence-based decisions on how to allocate resources, adjust programs and ultimately, deliver improved outcomes for workers, consumers and communities”:
- Effective human rights indicator design entails (1) articulating first the strategy, (2) accounting for the context, and then (3) developing the relevant targets and indicators. Articulating the strategy entails articulating the intended human rights outcomes for people, articulating whose behaviors you are targeting and what you want them to do, and articulating related activities, outputs, inputs and outcomes for business. Accounting for context entails mapping contextual factors (risks, dependencies, and assumptions) and setting out how you do, or will, address these contextual factors. Developing targets and indicators entails establishing outcome targets to build momentum and accountability and designing a holistic set of indicators to measure progress and impact.
- The theory of change thinking, a well-established monitoring and evaluation practice from the fields of international development and public policy, can be adapted to suit the realities of business and human rights challenge. This includes (1) adding ‘practices and behaviours’ between ‘outputs’ and ‘outcomes’ so that we have a midpoint of evaluation that focuses on the desired changes in human behavior; (2) focusing on ‘outcomes for people’ rather than general impacts since these outcomes are more specific and time-bound than higher-level societal benefits that occur over a longer period of time and (3) distinguishing between ‘outcomes for people’ and ‘outcomes for business’ since it can be helpful to show where efforts to improve outcomes for people also bring benefits to the business itself, while maintaining a focus on positive outcomes for people.
- Engagement with stakeholders forms a critical part of using the indicator design tool successfully. This includes engagement with “internal issue owners and subject-matter experts; wherever possible, with input from the affected stakeholders and/or their legitimate representatives; and where appropriate, with companies (such as peers, suppliers, partners or customers) that are an integral part of achieving the outcomes you have articulated.” This engagement helps ensure that companies “understand what needs to change for the better from the perspective of affected groups, and how they think that change might be achieved”; that companies’ ideas “about how to address the human rights issue are building on the company’s own experience, leading practices of other companies and the insights of people who understand the local contexts” and that companies “[i]ncrease the likelihood that internal and external stakeholders will understand the rationale for the indicators you design, and so support data collection, analysis and learning.”