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 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

Companies have long been awaiting some more clarity on their reporting obligations vis à vis the German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act (SCDDA). The BAFA has now shed some light on what is expected of the reporting entities by publishing 38 detailed questions (in addition to some general information on the reporting entity) covering the whole spectrum of due diligence obligations under the SCDDA. 

Continue Reading Business and Human Rights: Supply Chain Due Diligence – Questionnaire for reporting published by German authority

Investors across the globe are increasingly putting pressure on legislators to mandate human rights and environmental due diligence (“HREDD“). The UK Government has not been immune from such pressure.

As highlighted in our earlier blog post, in early September 2022, a group of 47 companies, investors, business associations and initiatives operating in

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

On 17 August 2022, the Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control (Bundesamt für Wirtschaft und Ausfuhrkontrolle, “BAFA”) has issued its first handout to provide guidance to companies currently implementing a risk management system to comply with the German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act (“SCDDA”). The document is aptly titled

On 23 February 2022, the European Commission published its much-anticipated draft corporate sustainability and due diligence directive (the “Draft Directive”).  The Draft Directive sets out a proposed EU standard for human rights and environmental due diligence (“HREDD”) which, importantly, would apply to any non-EU-based company and its subsidiaries  if those group companies have aggregate annual net turnover in the EU of:

  • more than EUR 150 million (Group 1); or
  • more than EUR 40 million with at least 50% of net worldwide turnover generated in a “high-risk” sector which includes textiles, clothing and footwear, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food & extractives (Group 2).

Notably, the HREDD applies even if a company and its subsidiaries do not have a physical presence in the EU, if the above net turnover threshold is met.

The Draft Directive requires both Group 1 and Group 2 companies to take appropriate measures to identify, and mitigate, actual and potential adverse human rights and environmental impacts arising from their own operations anywhere in the world (not just in the EU) and, where related to their value chains, from their “established business relationships”.

Colleagues from our offices throughout the world have prepared briefings which are specific to particular locations, giving insights into related matters in those jurisdictions.

Continue Reading Human Rights and the Environment – What non-EU-based companies need to know regarding the EU draft Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive

The recent publication, on 27 February 2022, of the second instalment to the Sixth Assessment Report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (“IPCC“) did not receive the same degree of attention as the first instalment in August 2021.  The findings, and message, of the second instalment, are no less severe, or potentially consequential, however, delivering as it does, the “bleakest warning yet” of the impacts of climate change.

The first instalment, developed by the IPCC’s Working Group I, focused on the physical science basis of climate change.  The second instalment, developed by the IPCC’s Working Group II, assesses the impacts of climate change, looking at ecosystems, biodiversity and human communities at global and regional levels.

The findings of the IPCC are, of course, deeply troubling in many respects, and the implications of those findings are likely to be extensive.  One area in which those implications are likely to be felt is that of climate litigation.  As explored in our previous article, the science based findings of the IPCC have played a role in affirming international legal standards on climate change and establishing the link between emissions and climate change, thereby – in some respects – strengthening the cases of climate litigants who may previously have encountered difficulties in establishing causation.  The ever-increasing urgency of the climate crisis, and the willingness – and ability – of stakeholders to use litigation to compel action to address that crisis, will continue to be features of the landscape as attention focuses on the IPCC’s findings.

Continue Reading Climate Change Litigation: the IPCC’s latest Report links climate change to loss and damage

On 23 February 2022, the European Commission published its much-anticipated draft corporate sustainability and due diligence directive (the Draft Directive), after a number of delays (see our Previous Blog).  The Draft Directive sets out a proposed EU standard for human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD). This includes an obligation for companies to take appropriate measures to identify actual and potential adverse human rights and environmental impacts arising from their own operations or those of their subsidiaries and, where related to their value chains, from their “established business relationships”.  The Draft Directive also provides a mechanism for sanctions to be imposed for non-compliance with the due diligence obligations and provides for director responsibility and accountability in relation to a company’s HREDD programme.

Whilst the Draft Directive remains subject to further legislative scrutiny and approval, it provides the most detailed insight yet as to the scope and form of the prospective EU HREDD obligations, and it provides a helpful template for corporates to continue developing their due diligence policies and procedures designed to identify, assess and mitigate adverse human rights and environmental impacts – both in their operations and in their supply chains.

Continue Reading Human Rights and the Environment – EU publishes draft Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive