In March 2023, the European Commission proposed the Green Claims Directive (the “Directive“), which aims to tackle greenwashing (read our previous update on the Directive here).  On 12 March 2024, the European Parliament voted in favour of the Directive at first reading. This move further complements the EU’s commitment to empowering consumers, ensuring fair competition and fostering a more environmentally responsible marketplace.Continue Reading The Green Claims Directive: European Parliament approves at first reading

On 14 December 2023, following several rounds of inter-institutional negotiations, the European Council of the European Union (Council) and the European Parliament (Parliament) announced that a political agreement had been reached on a Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence (CS3D).  The European Commission (Commission) had initially published its proposal for CS3D on 23 February 2022, with the Council and the Parliament issuing their own positions on the text on 30 November 2022 and 1 June 2023, respectively (see our previous blogs, here, here and here).

Inspired by the 2017 French law on Corporate Duty of Vigilance and the 2021 German Supply Chain Law (see our previous blog post), and in response to growing stakeholder expectations and demands in the EU and globally, CS3D sets out EU standards for human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD), requiring in-scope companies to mitigate their negative impact on human rights and the environment with respect to their own operations, those of their subsidiaries and those carried out by their business partners. In so doing, CS3D seeks to provide legal certainty and a level playing field as regards corporate supply chain obligations.Continue Reading Human Rights and the Environment – EU Institutions Reach Political Agreement On Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive

On 28 November 2023, Baroness Young of Hornsey introduced the Commercial Organisations and Public Authorities Duty (Human Rights and Environment) Bill (the “Bill”) to the House of Lords.  If passed, the Bill would introduce mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence (“HREDD”) into UK law.

The description of “reasonable” HREDD set out in the Bill is consistent with the standards set out in the UN Guiding Principles and existing and draft legislation in other jurisdictions (including the EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, “CS3D”, as outlined in our previous blog here).  Companies with international footprints, including through their direct operations and supply chains, should already have in place a plan to implement enterprise HREDD processes that meet existing soft law standards and emerging hard law HREDD requirements.

While it is unclear whether the Bill would be supported by the UK Government, companies should already be taking steps to anticipate and prepare for HREDD.  The direction of travel is undoubtedly trending towards HREDD legislation and stakeholder expectations around how companies should respond continue to increase.  In particular, several jurisdictions have already adopted laws that require companies to identify, address, prevent, mitigate and remedy harms in their operations and supply chains (e.g. France, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands) in advance of CS3D which will directly apply to many large non-EU based companies given its broad extraterritorial application, while others are considering such laws (e.g. CS3D) (e.g., see our previous blogs here and here).Continue Reading Business and Human Rights – could the UK adopt mandatory human rights due diligence?

The risk of an accusation of “greenwashing” is now an important concern for many companies. Greenwashing is an ill-defined concept but, nevertheless, is increasingly a source of litigation and regulatory scrutiny – with more of both expected. It carries with it reputational, regulatory and litigation risks for which companies should be prepared. Whilst the risks are always context specific – varying by jurisdiction, industry

On 8 June 2023, during their Ministerial Council Meeting in Paris, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (“OECD”) launched an updated version of its Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (the “Guidelines”). This is the first update to the Guidelines since 2011 and the changes represent substantial and far reaching new expectations for multinationals, particularly in relation to areas of their operations or business which may have human rights or environmental implications. This update sets out a brief overview of the OECD Guidelines and some of the key updates since the 2011 Guidelines.Continue Reading A new era for human rights and environmental due diligence: the OECD launches updated Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises

On 7 June 2023, the UK Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA“) – the UK’s independent advertising regulator – banned a series of advertisements from a number of large oil and gas companies for including misleading information about their socio-environmental credentials. These landmark rulings, which mark the latest step in the ASA’s fight against greenwashing, are expected to set a precedent for how companies advertise their socio-environmental credentials in the future. More broadly, the increased regulatory scrutiny will likely feed into the expected rise in ESG-related litigation.

This move from the ASA mirrors similar moves by regulators and law-makers both in the UK and in other jurisdictions. The UK Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) has, for example, commenced investigations into the accuracy of environmental claims made by businesses in the fast-moving consumer goods sector (for further information on the CMA’s investigation, read our earlier blog post here). The US Federal Trade Commission and the European Commission have also taken steps to tighten regulation addressing greenwashing in marketing materials (for further information on these initiatives, read our earlier blog posts here and here).Continue Reading Greenwashing: UK advertising watchdog bans greenwashing advertisements

On 1 June 2023, the European Parliament (the “EP“) plenary session adopted its proposed amendments to the draft EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (“CSDDD“).

The adopted text largely mirrors the version voted on by the EP’s Legal Affairs Committee in April 2023 (which we discussed in our earlier blog post), in that it confirms that:

  • asset managers and institutional investors will be in-scope;
  • the due diligence requirements will apply to: (i) EU companies with over 250 employees and a global turnover of over €40 million; (ii) parent companies with over 500 employees and a global turnover of over €150 million; and (iii) non-EU companies with a global turnover of over €150 million if at least €40 million of this was generated in the EU; and
  • directors of companies with more than 1,000 employees will be responsible for ensuring the company implements a transition plan that is compatible with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The adopted text also confirms that non-compliant companies may be liable for damages and could be sanctioned by the national supervisory authorities of EU member states. Sanctions include taking a company’s goods off the market and/or the imposition of fines of at least 5% of a company’s net global turnover. Non-EU companies that fail to comply may also be banned from public procurement in the EU.Continue Reading Human Rights and the Environment – European Parliament adopts amendments to draft Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive

On 24 May 2023, Walk Free, an international human rights group focused on the eradication of modern slavery, published the fifth edition of its Global Slavery Index (the “Index”), which provides a national level analysis of modern slavery across 160 countries.

Modern slavery is a growing global problem against a backdrop of compounding risks.  According to the Index, some 50 million people around the world are living in modern slavery, with a reported 28 million in forced labour, 22 million in forced marriage and 12 million in child labour.  Moreover, the Index estimates that around US$ 468 billion of goods imported by the G20 are at risk of being tainted by modern slavery. This includes products related to: cattle, coal, cocoa, coffee, electronics, fish, garments, gold, palm oil, rice, solar panels, sugar cane, textiles and timber.

The Index includes a heatmap that illustrates where modern slavery risks are more acute.  In practice, this may prove to be a helpful tool for companies seeking to identify and assess human rights (and, in particular, modern slavery risks) in global supply chains in order to respond to: emerging mandatory human rights due diligence (“HRDD“) laws; obligations under established international norms (such as the UN Guiding Principles); and increasing stakeholder expectations.Continue Reading Business and Human Rights – Global Slavery Index 2023 highlights global nature and scope of modern slavery risks in supply chains

On 25 April 2023, the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee voted in favour of a revised version of the EU draft Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (“the Draft Directive”).

The revised version differs from the versions that we have previously commented on here, here and here in the following key respects:

  • Inclusion

Companies must recognise that they are subject to increased expectations in terms of effective identification and management of social issues. A failure to do so – and the resulting inequality – is increasingly seen as representing a systemic risk to the resilience of business operations and value chains. Expectations are reinforced by the wave of new due diligence regulations and reporting standards focussed on addressing both the ‘E’ and ‘S’ in ESG (see, for example, our earlier blog posts on the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive here, as well as on the UK Financial Conduct Authority’s Greenwashing rules here).

CFOs have a critical role in communicating how companies are addressing wider social issues linked to their business operations and ensuring companies’ compliance with related regulations and reporting standards. To help CFOs execute this role effectively, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (the “WBCSD“) and Shift have released a primer for CFOs for advancing the ‘S’ in ESG (the “Report“). The Report aims to provide a starting point for CFOs working to address the demands and challenges associated with the ‘S’ in ESG, covering both an overview of the what, the who and the how of corporate social performance and key recommendations for improving the measurement of that performance.Continue Reading Business and Human Rights – a “primer” for CFOs for advancing the ‘S’ in ESG