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?

Brazil’s draft Sustainable Taxonomy Action Plan (the Action Plan), prepared by the Ministry of Finance, is currently under public consultation and receiving contributions and comments for its improvement. The deadline for taking part in the public consultation is October 20, 2023.

The development of a sustainable taxonomy seeks to address Brazil’s main environmental and social

Companies are increasingly recognising that climate risk poses “strategic and operational risk” that could severely impact business operations. On 3 August 2023, United Nations Global Compact released Just Transition in Supply Chains: A Business Brief (the “Brief”).  At the heart of the Brief is a call for businesses to embed the concept of ‘just transition’ into supply chain risk management, taking into account both the environmental and social impacts of their supply chains. There is real concern that as companies increase their climate mitigation and adaptation activities, such actions may have unintended consequences that negatively affect workers, small businesses and local communities that drive global supply chains. On the other hand, integrating climate and social risks into a business’ core business and risk management could be “mutually reinforcing” and could “deliver valuable co-benefits”.Continue Reading UN Global Compact Publishes Business Brief on Just Transition in Supply Chains

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 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

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

On 28 February 2023, the Judicial Court of Paris (the “Court”) issued an interim order (the “Order”) in the context of a judicial dispute concerning compliance with the French Law n°2017-399 of 27 March on the Duty of Vigilance (the “French Vigilance Law”). This decision is the result of a lengthy judicial process that started back in 2019 when the defendant was summoned by several NGOs before the Court for an alleged lack of compliance with its obligation of vigilance.Continue Reading Business and Human Rights: first French case-law on the Duty of Vigilance – judges adopt a cautious approach to avoid judicial interference in corporate management

In what marks its latest move to tackle modern slavery, on 10 February 2023, the UK Government published its new guide for commercial and procurement professionals, entitled “Tackling Modern Slavery in Government Supply Chains” (the “Guidance”). The Guidance is aimed at helping procurement and commercial practitioners at all levels who are operating in government comply with their statutory obligations in respect of modern slavery. It builds on the UK Government’s “Slavery and human trafficking in supply chains: guidance for businesses” and its modern slavery statement Progress Report.Continue Reading Business and Human Rights – the UK Government publishes new guidance on tackling modern slavery in Government Supply Chains

Both the financial sector and the real economy are faced with increased regulatory requirements and expectations of various stakeholders to meet ESG criteria, which are a benchmark for sustainability and sustainable investments. A high ESG rating not only promotes corporate policy, but also serves the profit interest of investors.

Currently, in the EU only capital