Promoting British business interests abroad should go "hand in hand" with respect for human rights, Foreign Secretary William Hague has said.
The minister spoke as the Government launched its action plan on business and human rights, becoming the first country to set out guidance to companies on integrating corporate social responsibility (CSR) into their operations.
He was joined at the launch of Good Business: Implementing The UN Guiding Principles On Business And Human Rights by Business Secretary Vince Cable and Professor John Ruggie, the former UN Secretary-General's special representative on business and human rights and author of the UN Guiding Principles.
Mr Hague said that doing business while respecting human rights was "good for people, for prosperity and for the UK".
"We believe firmly that the promotion of business and respect for human rights should go hand in hand," he told guests at the Institute of Directors in London.
"That's why the UK is showing leadership in helping companies to understand it and pushing other states to follow suit.
"We now call on business to work with us to implement the action plan and I hope other countries across the world will follow our lead."
The action plan ties the Government to protect against human rights abuse within UK controlled areas involving businesses, help UK businesses adhere to rights responsibilities here and abroad and aid victims of human rights violations by UK-based firms.
It also plans to lobby other governments to adhere to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights created by Prof Ruggie. It also sets out what it expects of UK businesses trading abroad with respect to human rights.
The plan has been welcomed by companies including Unilever and rights group Amnesty International.
Peter Frankental, Amnesty's economic relations programme director, said it was "a significant step towards applying international standards to companies operating from the UK".
"This not only sends strong signals to all parts of the UK Government to address business impacts on human rights, but also sets an example to other governments," he said.