On 21 November 2022, the World Benchmarking Alliance – a non-profit organisation that develops benchmarks to hold companies to account for their part in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – published its 2022 Corporate Human Rights Benchmark Insights Report (the “2022 Report“).

Compared to previous iterations (which we have discussed in a previous blog post here), the 2022 Report devotes more attention to companies’ efforts to ensure that human rights are respected within their operations and supply chains, rather than simply focussing on the human rights-related commitments that companies have made. The 2022 Report also focusses on companies’ stakeholder engagement, their business models, strategies and risks, and whether they prohibit forms of forced labour.

In applying this revised methodology, the 2022 Report concludes that companies are better recognising their human rights-related responsibilities and have improved their human rights-related risk management strategies. However, the 2022 Report also highlights that the pace of this improvement has been very slow.

Continue Reading Business and Human Rights: Corporate Human Rights Benchmark 2022 shows that corporate respect for human rights has gained momentum

The 27th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) has opened in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, against a global backdrop of massive hikes in energy prices, inflation, increases in interest rates and uncertainty about the robustness of the implementation of the ESG regulatory agenda (particularly in the US). In 2022, heat waves in Europe killed more than 15,000 people and nearly 1,700 died as a result of flooding in Pakistan. Hurricane Ian caused widespread devastation. A recent report by economist Nicholas Stern stated that $2 trillion (£1.75 trillion) per year will be needed by 2030 to help developing countries cut their greenhouse gas emissions and cope with the effects of climate breakdown —switching away from fossil fuels, investing in renewable energy and other low-carbon technology, and coping with the impacts of extreme weather.

With existing commitments to climate finance yet to be met and national policies not yet consistent with the objective of limiting global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius, this year’s COP has its work cut out. What can realistically be hoped for as outcomes of COP27?

Continue Reading COP27: From Grey Glasgow to Sunny Sharm

The requirement for companies to conduct human rights diligence (“HRDD“) is increasingly being implemented by legislators across the globe.  For example, the EU is expected to adopt its draft corporate sustainability and due diligence directive in 2023. Importantly, the Directive will apply to Japanese companies and their subsidiaries if they meet certain criteria (for further information on the applicability of the directive to Japanese companies, read our earlier blog post here). Japanese companies are, therefore, being required to strengthen their HRDD processes as a result of the legislation of foreign jurisdictions (including the EU).

On 13 September 2022, the Japanese Government published its Guidelines on Respecting Human Rights in Responsible Supply Chains (the “Guidelines“), which recommend that all enterprises engaging in business activities in Japan respect human rights in their supply chains and carry out HRDD.

Continue Reading Business and Human Rights: Japan publish Guidelines on Respect for Human Rights in Responsible Supply Chains

The expectation for businesses to conduct human rights and environmental due diligence (“HREDD“) is increasingly becoming mandated by legislators across the globe.  As discussed in our earlier blog post, mandatory HREDD obligations are already in-place across Europe, including in France, Germany and Norway, whilst the EU is expected to adopt the draft Corporate Sustainability and Due Diligence Directive – which sets out a proposed mandatory HREDD standard – in 2023. Although the UK Government has announced its intention to introduce a new Modern Slavery Bill (see pages 83 to 84 of the Queen’s Speech briefing, published on 10 May 2022), the UK Government has not indicated that it intends to follow Europe’s lead in introducing a UK-level mandatory HREDD law.

As a result, in September 2022, 47 companies, investors, business associations and initiatives operating in the UK published a joint statement calling on the UK Government to “introduce a new legal requirement for companies and investors to carry out human rights and environmental due diligence“. This follows calls, in August 2022, from a group of 39 investors for the UK Government to bring forward a ‘Business, Human Rights and Environment Act’ to mandate all companies operating in the UK to conduct HREDD.

Continue Reading Business and Human rights: Investors call on the UK Government to mandate human rights and environmental due diligence

Companies have a substantial impact on human rights when carrying out their business activities. The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights set the expectation that companies conduct human rights and environmental due diligence (“HREDD“) with respect to their business activities, which includes assessing and responding to actual and potential human rights issues.

The expectation for companies to conduct HREDD is increasingly becoming mandated by legislators across the globe. For example, in Germany the Supply Chain Due Diligence Act will enter into force on 1 January 2023. It is arguably the most comprehensive law in this area to date, since in-scope companies will have to comprehensively analyse their global supply chains, assess the risks within their supply chains and act accordingly. Further, in the European Union an equivalent directive is upcoming. The European Commission’s draft corporate sustainability and due diligence directive (the “Draft Directive“) – which is anticipated to be adopted in 2023 – sets out a proposed HREDD standard, under which companies will be obliged to identify actual and potential adverse human rights and environmental issues arising from their operations or those of their subsidiaries and, where related to their value chains, from their “established business relationships” (for more information on the Draft Directive, read our earlier blog posts here and here). Involving and engaging stakeholders in a meaningful way will be critical for in-scope companies to successfully implement HREDD processes and ensure compliance with these obligations.

To help companies engage with stakeholders, the UN Global Compact Network Germany (“GCNG“) – an organisation created to assist companies in meeting their human rights-related responsibilities – has recently published its “What makes stakeholder engagement meaningful? 5 insights from practice” report (the “GCNG Report“). The GCNG Report highlights five “selected success factors” that companies can adopt to help ensure their engagement with stakeholders is effective and meaningful.

Continue Reading Business and Human Rights: meaningful stakeholder engagement in due diligence

In a timely episode of Tools of the Trade, Mayer Brown Chair Jon Van Gorp and Management Committee member Sally Davies take on a topic of increasing importance: environmental, social and governance principles, commonly referred to as ESG. Their primary guest, David Carpenter, is one of three co-leaders (with Mark Uhrynuk and James Whitaker) of

At the Summer 2022 National Meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (“NAIC”), the Innovation, Cybersecurity, and Technology (H) Committee and its Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (H) Working Group held their first Collaboration Forum session on the topic of algorithmic bias. The Collaboration Forum was established at the Spring National Meeting as a

On August 11, 2022, the Climate and Resiliency (EX) Task Force (“C&R Task Force”) and the Special (EX) Committee on Race and Insurance (“R&I Committee”) met at the Summer 2022 National Meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (“NAIC”). While the C&R Task Force and R&I Committee did not

On 28 July 2022, 161 States voted in favour of a United Nations General Assembly (“UNGA“) resolution declaring access to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, a universal human right (“UNGA Resolution“). In a remarkable display of global solidarity, the resolution received zero ‘against’ votes, and eight ‘abstain’ votes. This vote follows the passing of a similar resolution in the United National Human Rights Council in October 2021. UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, David Boyd, hailed the UNGA Resolution as having the potential “to be a turning point for humanity”.

Continue Reading Business and Human Rights: New Universal Human Right To Access A Clean, Healthy And Sustainable Environment

In our blog post here, we discussed the amendments to the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited’s (SEHK) Corporate Governance Code and Listing Rules, which prohibit single-gender boards among listed companies and IPO applicants in Hong Kong, effective from January 1, 2022. Existing issuers with single-gender boards will have a three-year transition period to