Financial Accounting & Human Rights

Financial Accounting & Human Rights

by Thinq Tanq

September 29, 2018 / 6318 AFK

As an organization, one of our Common Values is human rights. Human rights, as Ujamaa Works defines them, include things like self-determination, racial equality, gender equality, equality of sexual orientations, clean air and clean water. One might ask, "What does a professional organization or a corporation, have to do with human rights?" In short, the answer is, "Everything."

In the 1990s, Royal Dutch Shell's private security worked alongside the Nigerian military to protect the corporation's ability to extract oil from Nigeria. This private corporation, based in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, worked with the Nigerian government to use lethal violence against the Ogoni people of Nigeria in order to appropriate land and natural resources for Shell's benefit.

Shell's capital-centric, decision-making processes revolve around fossil fuel extraction and profit maximization. So, in true, neocolonial fashion, nothing in their decision-making processes considered that the Ogoni people had a self-determining right to the land from which they were displaced. The Ogoni people's right to own and control the natural resources of their land doesn't affect Shell's price-earnings ratio. Nothing in their decision-making process requires them to consider that the fossil fuel industry was contaminating the air and water around the world. As a capitalist corporation, Shell only has the managerial capacity to place valuations on revenue streams, not the lives or human rights that they would cost.

In 2016, in order to build the Dakota Access Pipeline, fossil fuel company, Energy Transfer Partners worked with state and federal governments of the United States to violate the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's land rights, which were granted under the 1851 US Treaty of Fort Laramie. At the behest of Energy Transfer Partners, private and public armed forces pushed, arrested and injured indigenous people with weapons and attack dogs until they controlled the land on which the pipeline would be constructed.

The United Nations has determined that indigenous people have a right to self-determination. And oil pipeline leaks are so common that building the Dakota Access Pipeline underneath a water channel that supplies water for 16 million people is a direct threat to the human right to clean water. Yet again, another corporation had no mechanism for honoring human rights, should they stand in the way of profit. This pipeline - which was constructed and has already leaked at least five times - is one of many, routine instances of a corporation violating human rights.

As a professional organization, Ujamaa Works aspires to a higher standard. This initiative is charged with developing methods of incorporating human rights into business' decision-making and to reorganize decision-making power so that black and indigenous workers and communities can protect our human rights at the level of the corporation. These concerns should not be relegated to philanthropic activity, but we will explore mechanisms for integrating human rights into the core operations of a business. The best way to protect human rights is to not violate them in the first place and by systematically incorporating them into budgets and cost-benefit analyses. There is no imaginary line between business - whatever we do day-in and day-out for pay - and the state of human rights in the world.