Business and Human Rights Update for our Readers

Much is happening in B+HR. Here is a tour of some big developments, campaigns and new resources, prepared by Rachel. 

EU Sustainable Corporate Governance Proposal

The EU Sustainable Corporate Governance proposal is in the critical stages of development prior to its publication, anticipated to be in early December. The legislative proposal is expected to include placing obligations on companies operating in the EU to conduct human rights due diligence. Back in March 2021, the European Parliament adopted its recommendations on Corporate Due Diligence and Corporate Accountability.

The drive towards mandatory due diligence follows the realisation that voluntary implementation alone by business has proven insufficient. As a 2020 European Commission study shows, only one in three businesses in the EU are currently assessing the impact of their operations on human rights and the environment. Due diligence is primarily preventative, aiming to avoid adverse impacts on human rights and environmental harms occurring in the first place, and should also include provision for sanctions and civil liability.

A YouGov poll commissioned by the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ) and other NGOs conducted across 9 EU countries shows over 80% want strong laws to hold companies liable for overseas human rights and environmental violations. As the Sustainable Corporate Governance proposal progresses, companies and investors are issuing statements supporting EU human rights and environmental legislation which is cross-sectoral and covers small as well as large businesses as part of the same value chain:

  • Cocoa Coalition, including Nestlé, Ferrero, Mars Wrigley, Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance (see here)
  • Investor Alliance for Human Rights representing over $6.3 trillion in assets under management

Multiple EU countries already have human rights due diligence style legislation in place, or under development (according to the ECCJ). In the UK, businesses, investors and business organisations including John Lewis, Tesco, Microsoft, Primark, the BRC, Asos and Co-op Bank have called on the Government to introduce a new legal requirement for companies and investors to carry out human rights and environmental due diligence (see update form the Corporate Justice Coalition here).

Launch of Campaign for Corporate Accountability Legislation in Ireland

The Irish Coalition for Business & Human Rights (ICBHR) launched the campaign for corporate accountability legislation in Ireland this week: 

A poll conducted by the ICBHR shows 81% of Irish people want legally binding regulations in Ireland for Irish companies acting unethically in low-income countries. Only 11% believe Irish companies should be able to self-regulate and apply their own standards.

Updates on Civil Proceedings and Civil Liability 

Laws at EU and at national level must make provision for sanctions on businesses which fail to conduct effective due diligence. So that those impacted have access to effective remedy, there must be provision for civil liability and complementary reforms which may be required to remove barriers to remedy. Recently published resources include:

  • ECCJ, ‘Suing Goliath, an analysis of civil cases against EU companies for overseas human rights and environmental abuses
  • Danish Institute for Human Rights, ‘Human Rights Due Diligence laws: key considerations’

UN Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights

The 7th round of negotiations for a UN binding treaty to regulate transnational corporations and other businesses is underway. The 7th session of the intergovernmental working group will take place on 25 – 29 October 2021. Expert commentary, including on the Third Revised Draft is available on the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre website.

We hope you enjoyed this update and continue to watch this space!

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