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Financial Services Human Rights Benchmark

Measuring the human rights impacts of financial services
Our benchmark allows users to easily compare and understand financial services entities (FSEs) from a human rights perspective. We assess their performance across six human rights categories and five areas of impact.

Our vision

Financial services are behind in their thinking with regard to how, and to what extent, their core business activities impact human rights.

The sector has been dogged by human myriad rights-related incidents and issues in recent times, including:

  • the poor treatment of retail customers,
  • risk management and compliance systems blind to wider social considerations,
  • investments without due consideration to human rights impacts
  • sexual harassment and wage gaps in the workplace,  
  • a limited sense of how public policy advocacy by financial institutions is at odds with their stated business policy positions.

By measuring performance against a set of indicators and across a range of impact areas designed specifically for the financial services sector, the ethical actions of these institutions can be documented, benchmarked and evaluated.

Based on all publicly available information, this research allows us, and others, to look beyond the philanthropic work often highlighted by these institutions and evaluate how their core business activities impact human rights.

About the team

Professor David Kinley holds the Chair in Human Rights Law at the University of Sydney Law School.

He is also an Academic Expert member of Doughty Street Chambers in London, a founding member of Australian Lawyers for Human Rights and a member of the Australian Council for Human Rights. He was previously the founding Director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University from 2000 to 2005.

Specialising in the profound and intriguing intersections between human rights and the global economy, he has been at the forefront of this fast-growing subject area from its inception some 25 years ago.

He is a former Fulbright Senior Scholar and has taught and lectured at more than a dozen universities worldwide, from Oxford, La Sorbonne, and Harvard, to West Point Military Academy, the University of the South Pacific, and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

David has also worked with a wide range of international organizations including the UN, the World Bank, and the EU, as well as government agencies, law firms, multinational corporations and NGOs in Australia, Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands, Europe and North America.

His books include Civilising Globalisation in 2009; The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (with Saul and Mowbray), 2014 (winner of the American Society of International Law Book Prize in 2015); Necessary Evil, 2018 (winner of the Axiom International Business Book Award in 2020); and most recently The Liberty Paradox. He also has a TEDx video: How Much do Banks Owe Us?

David’s full and formal curriculum vitae is available here.

Dr Kym Sheehan came to the law in 2001, having previously worked in human resources, including working as an Associate at executive search firms, a human resources manager in the mining industry and consulting roles in telecommunications, health IT and marketing.

Her interest in executive remuneration is long-standing, commencing in 1994 when she started working as an Associate at an executive search firm. She continued her interests in executive remuneration and its regulation via a PhD on say on pay at the Melbourne Law School. 

While no longer working in human resources, Kym has retained her interest in corporate life and employment matters. This informs her interest in human rights and business.   

Her initial research on a modern slavery act for Australia in 2017. It was this research and a mutual interest in finance that led to David and Kym applying for funding via the Sydney Law School’s Special Projects Scheme in 2017. 

Kym is the lead designer of the benchmark and manages the team of research assistants on the project.  

Kym’s full and formal curriculum vitae is available here.

  • Stefanie Car
  • Tom Seaton-Roberts
  • Jamie Lowe
  • John-Patrick Asimakis
  • Sam Slattery
  • Brendan Ma
  • Elle Makeig
  • Harrison Simons
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Research and results

Using our benchmark, we assessed the human rights performance of 22 ASX-listed financial service entities (FSEs). The following results are based on their 2019 financial year disclosures.

IMAGE: Photo by Floriane Vita on Unsplash

Research lead

Professor David Kinley - @dwkinley
View Professor Kinley's academic profile

Research lead

Dr Kym Sheehan - @kymm_sheehan
View Dr Sheehan's academic profile

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