We address the weaknesses inherent in the social risk assessments undertaken for business, especially hi the extractive industries. In contrast to the conventional approach that considers consequence to the company rather than to impacted communities, conformance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights requires that consequence to affected communities has precedence. In order for social risks to be properly assessed, we consider that: companies need to know and understand the human rights impacts of their activities; contemporary approaches to project impact and risk assessment need to be adapted to consider human rights; and environmental impact assessment (EIA) and social impact assessment (SIA) methods need to be adapted to give greater attention to impacts on human rights. Using an example from the mining, oil and gas sector, we provide a method that differentiates social risks from business risks, and we position impact assessment as an instrument that actively facilitates the improved identification, analysis and management of social risks. Practical adaptations to SIA activities and risk assessment processes are provided. Taking human rights impacts into account and using the dimensions of gravity, extent, vulnerability and remediability, we nominate criteria to assess the significance of negative social impacts.