Turning a Blind Eye? Respecting Human Rights in Government Purchasing

The U.S. federal government is the largest single purchaser in the global economy, with annual procurement spending that totals between $350 and $500 billion. Like other mega-consumers, it procures through global supply chains that enable large-scale production of goods to varying specifications—all at the lowest possible cost—and often in countries where rule of law and respect for human rights is weak or nonexistent. As such, the U.S. government’s global supply chains are linked to a range of human rights violations.


The “Government Procurement Project” of the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) commissioned three experts—Robert Stumberg, Anita Ramasastry, and Meg Roggensack—to conduct an in-depth analysis into U.S. federal procurement across several sectors, including apparel, agriculture, electronics, mineral extraction, and logistical and security services.

The resulting report -Turning a Blind Eye? Respecting Human Rights in Government Purchasing - seeks to provide a preliminary road map of ways in which the procurement process can be used to leverage the U.S. government’s immense purchasing power to push government suppliers to respect human rights. The goals of the report are: (1) to strengthen implementation of existing procurement standards, including those outlined in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Right (UNGPs), to protect human rights and (2) to require suppliers to respect human rights through the same due diligence steps that are becoming the norm in the private sector. In addition to fulfilling international obligations, the fulfillment of these goals would bring U.S. federal procurement into alignment with existing U.S. labor, trade, investment, and assistance policies—all of which provide helpful precedents and models for the strengthening of procurement rules.

The report can be downloaded here.

Should you have any questions about the report, please contact ICAR.