Often it is difficult to assess the impact of business practices where the sites of the actions are far from the source of production, as may be visible at large infrastructure sites or in extractive industries. However, the lives of local communities are disrupted when their health, land, water, air and livelihoods are adversely impacted by certain business actions and products. Our project aims to shift the focus to safeguarding the rights of affected communities, by revealing the links between unsustainable packaging and product design, and its adverse impacts on the human rights of vulnerable groups, including the urban poor and informal sector workers.
Unsustainable packaging and product design are among the most intractable obstacles to sustainable solid waste practices in India. Non-recyclable materials are a product of bad business practices that have an adverse impact on human rights and the environment. This is not due to the dearth of knowledge on effective management of waste but due to a lack of political will and business ethics. Companies may undertake assessments of their practices but these are usually from the point of view of managing business risks and not for effecting any real change. Governments look at this as a problem of shifting waste from the point where it is generated to landfills, which are usually outside the city and in case of Chennai, even near water bodies. UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights consider the assessment of human rights impacts as a key component of corporate responsibility and human rights due diligence. While it is evident that companies across the world have impacts on human rights - both positive and negative, we need concrete evidence of the interaction between businesses and human rights so that we minimise adverse ones and optimise the positive contributions.