Addressing Adverse Human Rights Impacts Connected to Product Misuse

While much attention has been given to business’s responsibility to respect human rights within its supply chain operations, much less attention has been given to this responsibility on the customer side of the value chain, in particular how business can or should address adverse human rights impacts linked to their relationships with customers, clients, or other third party purchasers and end users. Product misuse— defined as the use of a product or service, in whole or in part, for a purpose other than its intended application— is one way a business relationship on the customer side of the value chain could be directly linked to adverse human rights impacts. For example, a construction company sells a tool to a customer, who then misuses that tool to intimidate and injure citizens engaging in a peaceful demonstration, or a finance services company sells financial data to a client, who then misuses that data to target and harm vulnerable persons. Through these examples, one can infer how product misuse may lead to human rights harm, infringing individuals’ rights to freedom of expression, health and privacy, among others.