Investors are increasingly focussed on how companies address modern slavery and wider human rights issues when making investment decisions.  Despite this, many UK companies are failing to adequately report on, and take sufficient steps to eradicate, modern slavery within their businesses and supply chains, according to the Financial Reporting Council’s (the “FRC“) recently published Modern Slavery Reporting Practices in the UK Report (the “Report”).

The Report, which analysed the reporting practices of 100 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange’s Main Market, highlighted that the majority of companies are failing to disclose sufficient information to enable stakeholders to make informed decisions about companies’ compliance with modern slavery legislation.  Such shortcomings in the quality of companies’ modern slavery reporting presents a number of compliance, reputational and financial risks to companies.

Continue Reading Business and Human Rights: the Financial Reporting Council identifies failings in UK companies’ modern slavery reporting

In December 2021, President Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (“UFLPA”) into law. The UFLPA creates a rebuttable presumption that goods “mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part” in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (“XUAR”) of China, or by certain other entities in China, are made with forced

In 2017, following multiple legislative proposals and lengthy negotiations, France became the first EU Member State to adopt a cross-sectoral law on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence (the “French Law“). At the time the French Law was adopted, it was highly criticized, in part because France appeared to be going “out on a limb” and a broader international response was felt to be necessary.

This February, an important step towards an EU-wide Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence legal framework was taken with the Proposal of the EU Commission for a Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence (the “EU Proposal“). This follows legislative developments in individual EU Member States mandating human rights and environment due diligence in supply chains – see our previous blog posts on national HREDD movements in Germany and the Netherlands, for example.

Continue Reading Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence: How the EU proposal Could Impact France’s Existing Due Diligence Law

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

The fashion industry often faces scrutiny from stakeholders to improve due diligence in supply chains.  A landmark proposed bill in New York, drafted last October and presented for the first time to a legislative committee on January 5 2022, is seeking to drive accountability and transparency in the supply chains of fashion companies. The Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act (the “Act“) historic in its scope and nature, would require fashion retail sellers and manufacturers to disclose their environmental and social impacts, and to set out targets to reduce those impacts.

Continue Reading ESG: Fashion in Focus – The Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act

On 6 December 2021, the Netherlands became the latest European government to announce plans to introduce mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD) legislation at a national level, adding to a growing movement and proliferation of national HREDD laws. This puts the Netherlands in the company of the likes of France, Germany and Norway (which have enacted or adopted such laws) and Austria, Belgium and Switzerland, among others (which are progressing their own national HREDD laws).

This development comes despite further delay on the publication of HREDD legislation at an EU level (see our previous Blog Post). On 6 December 2021, the Dutch Foreign Trade and Development minister said that he was “very disappointed” at the European Commission’s further delay to introduce EU mandatory HREDD legislation and announced the Dutch Government’s plans to develop and introduce a national HREDD law instead.

Continue Reading Business and Human Rights – The Netherlands to Introduce Mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence Legislation

The European Commission has indefinitely postponed its much-anticipated directive on human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD) – more than 150 days after it was first expected to be published. While the reason for the delay is unclear, 47 civil society organisations have penned an open letter seeking “full transparency on the reasons for the delay and on the decision-making process going forwards.”

Despite this setback, national HREDD legislation continues afoot: laws have been adopted or are in force in France, Germany and Norway, while proposed national legislation is being progressed in a number of other European countries. Most recently, in December 2021, the Netherlands announced its intent to introduce its own national HREDD law in view of the further delay of the proposed EU law.

Legislative developments aside, investors, civil society and other stakeholders are scrutinising how companies identify and mitigate human rights impacts in their operations and supply chains more closely than ever.

And so the message is clear: companies still need to take steps to develop and reinforce their human rights due diligence programmes, both in anticipation of further mandatory HREDD laws and to respond to stakeholder expectations and demands.

Continue Reading Business and Human Rights – EU’s Proposed Mandatory Human Rights and Environmental Due Diligence Law Faces Further Delay

During the COP26 summit, a coalition of 190 countries and organisations committed to phase out coal energy by 2040 as part of their commitment to transition to a low-carbon economy.  The coalition also stated, in their ‘Global Coal To Clean Power Transition Statement’, that they would provide a framework to support affected workers, sectors and communities to make a “just transition” away from unabated coal power.  The coalition’s concern is that the transition to a low-carbon economy may leave many coal-dependent economies at risk of economic hardship and social unrest.

The ‘Just Transition Assessment‘ (the Assessment) recently published by the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) provides important insight into the metrics that NGOs may lobby for in order to achieve what they view as a “just transition” (for information on some of the WBA’s other initiatives, please see our Corporate Human Rights Benchmark publication).  In carrying out the Assessment, the WBA states that it has measured the actions that some of the world’s most influential companies have taken to support workers and communities whilst they transform to low-carbon business models.

The Assessment contends that there is a “systematic lack of action by  companies to identify, prepare for and mitigate the social impacts of their low-carbon strategies”.  The Assessment goes on to state that these purported inadequacies need to be addressed, as transition risks being adversely affected by social unrest among those whose livelihoods are threatened.

Continue Reading Just Transition: The World Benchmarking Alliance Publishes Its ‘Just Transition Assessment’

In September 2021, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) published a briefing entitled “Social Audit Liability: Hard law strategies to redress weak social assurances” (the “Briefing”).

The Briefing contends that the existing model of social auditing is inadequate and that social auditing is not a substitute for human rights due diligence (see our previous Blog Post).  Among other things, the Briefing reflects on the failure of social audits to detect human rights abuse in the past and on the potential flaws in certification schemes.  Ultimately, the Briefing argues that companies should not solely rely on social audits and certifications and should instead adopt a “transformative approach” to human rights due diligence which goes beyond social auditing.

Continue Reading Business and Human Rights: The Case to Look Beyond Social Auditing

“… we renew our call on all governments to develop, implement, and enforce mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence requirements for businesses headquartered or operating within their own jurisdictions or, where appropriate, to further strengthen these regulatory regimes where they already exist.” – a statement from 94 investors representing over $6.3 trillion in AUM

On 7 October 2021, 94 investors representing over $6.3 trillion in assets under management and advisement, sent a statement to European Commissioners and the European Parliament, voicing their support for mandated human rights and environmental due diligence (mHREDD) (the “Statement“). The Statement was sent in light of the upcoming European Commission legislative proposal on Sustainable Corporate Governance. The proposal would require companies to consider their human rights and environmental impacts, allowing them to better manage sustainability related matters in their value chains and overall operations.

Continue Reading 94 Investors Representing Over $6 Trillion of AUM Voice Support for Mandatory Human Rights and Environmental Due Diligence