UN at LSE research output

Research Outputs

UN at LSE and the Business and Human Security Initiative publish theoretical and practice informed research which contributes to debates on business contribution to peace and development.

There is no way the challenges we face can be solved without business

Achim Steiner, Head of UNDP

The Human Security Business Partnership Framework

The Human Security Business Partnership Framework is an innovative instrument that applies the human security approach to support the engagement of the private sector in multi-stakeholder collaborations at local level, to achieve sustainable development outcomes. The Framework offers transnational companies a way to align their commercial goals with global agendas such as the SDGs and other normative frameworks and standards such as business and human rights, and responsible investing.

Read the report here.

Human Security Business Partnerships use the three pillars of the Framework: Principles, Processes and Tools to structure local multi-stakeholder collaboration in a way that foregrounds the needs of each partner, provides scope for active and equitable participation, and ensures reciprocal and durable commitments to sustainable development with security.

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Applying a human security approach for business: case studies


We have produced two videos on our Colombian case study, available in both Spanish and English.

Briefing Note: Human Security Business Partnerships in Colombia

The research brief summaries the results of the programme which applied Human Security Business Partnership Framework to  support development of sustainable solutions in five areas most affected by conflict in Colombia, in the context of the post 2016 peace process

Human security for business

Human security is what we all, as individuals and as part of communities, need to lead a tolerable life: physical safety, basic material needs and dignity.  The concept was first proposed by the UN Development Programme in 1994 and agreed by UN member states in a UN General Assembly Resolution in 2012. It shifts how we think about security, from traditional national security based on defending territory, usually with military means, towards a definition rooted in people and the threats to their daily existence. The components of human security – food security, economic security, a clean environment, access to healthcare, safe neighbourhoods - are context specific and will vary depending on where people live and work, and inter-connected. Human security takes a holistic view of risk and vulnerability. People-centred and bottom-up, it is also about empowering individuals and communities to make their own choices about how to survive, build resilience and plan their futures.  It provides a broader agenda than human rights, and one that is represented by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

How does this apply to business?  Across the world, companies and investors are deeply connected to people’s everyday lives even if they work from headquarters far away. Extended supply chains and the effects of globalisation mean that business impacts people directly and indirectly – as employees, customers, suppliers and citizens in places where it operates and invests. Pervasive human insecurity damages business prospects as well as individual lives. Human security is a way to engage with grass-roots issues and achieve positive social impacts and sustainability. It is not only an end goal to aspire to, but also an approach and methodology to manage risks and opportunities.

Human security strategies work with people and communities to identify material needs and vulnerabilities, within established frameworks such as the SDGs, ESG goals, human rights National Action Plans, or development policies.


The paper discusses some of the pertinent conceptual and practical issues concerning multistakeholder partnerships with business, hailed as the most effective collective action framework to tackle the world’s most complex developmental and sustainability challenges. It critically examines some of the core assumptions, underlines ambiguous record in the practical applications of multistakeholder partnerships and suggests a number of areas with a potential to advance new forms of collaborative governance involving corporate actors, informed by the Human Security approach.

Access it here.

Social impact measurement

How can the human security approach help in better measurement of social impacts of companies? Most companies have little or no knowledge about the impact of their activities outside the corporate performance targets. While companies increasingly engage in ESG (Environmental Social and Governance) reporting, this is usually based on high level indicators that do not necessarily correspond to bottom-up data from the local communities in which the company operates.

In order to help address this challenge, LSE IDEAS has been looking at the use of Human Security as a holistic approach to address multidimensional risks for businesses operating in fragile and conflict-affected settings, where fragility, human rights and sustainable development are brought together, offering a basis for identifying thresholds of people’s resilience. During phase one of the Human Security & Business initiative, our researchers looked at how to actually define and measure the social impacts of companies by using the concepts of Human Security and Positive Peace. The idea is to look at ways in which we could improve ESG standards and frameworks so that they become more focused on local realities, so that an understanding of the risks companies are facing is based on the reality of the local context, and that not just the risks to the companies themselves are considered but also the risks to communities as well, something also referred to as the double or dual materiality perspective.

From a measurement angle, Human Security can bring interrelated material ESG issues under one umbrella with indicators covering sustainable development, security, and human rights dimensions. In rethinking how to measure social impact, the concept of double materiality, meaning that companies have to report about how sustainability issues affect their business and about their own impact on people and the environment, and linking different dimensions into a holistic framework, is key to developing a new approach.

In Phase 2 of the Human Security & Business initiative, an improved ESG and SDG impact measurement method will be developed and tested, using the concepts of human security and positive peace. As a first step, a mapping will be carried out of existing ESG and SDG standards and guidelines, including an analysis of the extent of how human security principles and processes are included, and the identification of specific fragility, conflict and peacebuilding practices. The value creation criteria should reflect the goals and interests of companies and investors that use the standards and guidelines as part of their engagement on ESG risks and SDG impacts. This step will be followed by the development of specific, HS informed operational impact management and measurement methods that could strengthen the engagement on existing frameworks. Part of these methods will then be tested in one or more field applications, while at the same time, as part of the policy influencing component, entry points will be identified to introduce the new method and approach into criteria in policy-oriented ESG and SDG measurement frameworks. The seven steps of setting up the HSBP framework will be used as an example to showcase how a human security approach can help establish the new criteria that enhance the successful engagement on ESG risks and SDG impact management standards.

You can read the policy brief here.

Tech sector

Technology can play a significant role in rethinking relationships between communities in conflict. There is a growing body of work exploring the role of technology in peacebuilding, often referred to as ‘peacetech’. Building on this work and Build Up’s practical experience in the sector, the briefing paper by Maude Morrison and Helena Puig Larrauri explores the potential of digital technologies for shifting relationships between companies and communities in conflict settings. The paper draws from examples of technology’s role in reshaping relationships between communities and authorities in conflict.

You can read the briefing paper here.

Better Together Platform

The Better Together platform highlights trends in business social initiatives and actions for impact, and how the private sector reacted to the multiple forms of vulnerability and human insecurity exposed by the COVID-19 crisis. Many of the initiatives reported to the platform reflect business increasingly entering into two- way dialogues with local societies to understand their needs and how best to combat the effects of the pandemic.

Read the final report, ‘Better Together’: lessons from private sector responses to COVID-19.