Some 80% of banks do not implement the United Nations' Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, according to a BankTrack ranking.
Out of 50 banks that feature in investors' equity and bond portfolios prominently, and which were covered by the benchmark, 40 banks achieved a score of six or less out of 14. The previous ranking, which was developed in 2016, showed that banks scored an average of 3.4 out of 12.
Still, 70% already have a statement of policy that includes a high-level commitment to respect human rights. However, BankTrack warned that very few banks are considering their main human rights risks, discussing specific impacts or reporting related indicators.
"Alarmingly, only four banks were found to give any indication that they assess whether they caused or contributed to an adverse human rights impact, and none describe a process for making such an assessment," the report said.
Only 12 banks out of 50 were able to demonstrate both senior-level signoff of their policy commitment to respect human rights as well as specific governance regarding human rights at the board level.
"There is increasing 'lip service' paid to human rights compliance by the biggest global banks, but in the vast majority of cases it goes no further than this," said Ryan Brightwell, researcher at BankTrack and author of a report about the ranking, in a news release.
"Banks are still implicated in — or even directly facilitating — human rights abuses, including violations of indigenous peoples' rights, land grabs and even war crimes," Mr. Brightwell said.