We are witnessing a legal avalanche relating to business and human rights. Our Business and Human Rights Updates will keep you advised of initiatives of relevance to your business. We are also constantly chasing new tools to enable businesses to identify and effectively address potential harm to people and the environment. Ultimately, what protects people (and the planet) is also what best protects businesses.

COP26 and Just Transition | Continued delay to - but also support for - EU human rights due diligence legislation | Continued developments on trade law and forced labour 

  • COP26 and Just Transition 
    The COP 26 decision made stronger references than before to just transition as part of mitigation strategies and energy transition policies. States recognised "the need to ensure just transitions that promote sustainable development and eradication of poverty, and the creation of decent work and quality jobs, including through making financial flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emission and climate-resilient development, including through deployment and transfer of technology, and provision of support to developing country Parties."

    It should also be noted that the Scandinavian governments co-signed a declaration with the EU, US, UK, Germany, France and others on conditions for a just transition. One of the declaration's principles is to ensure that supply chains are free of human rights abuses, including through carrying out due diligence in line with the UNGPs and the OECD Guidelines for multinational enterprises. These governments also state that they intend to "consider the wider environmental, health, social and employment impacts of the operation of global supply chains, including the importance of building climate resilience into supply chains across all industries."

  • The proposal for EU legislation on mandatory human rights due diligence remains delayed, but maintains substantial support throughout the business community
    On 15 October, the EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders confirmed, at a webinar arranged by Finance Watch, that the EU Commission plans to publish its proposal for Sustainable Corporate Governance legislation later this autumn. While we await the proposal, it is worth recognising the continued strong support from businesses and investors for EU legislation on mandatory human rights due diligence. On 7 October, the Investor Alliance for Human Rights published a renewed statement of support, followed by a similar statement by major corporations in the cocoa and chocolate industry on 18 October. For a more comprehensive overview of corporate and investor support, check this overview. Similarly, on 22 October, 36 businesses, investors and business associations released a joint statement calling for the UK Government to introduce a law requiring mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence in the UK.

  • Recent developments on trade law and forced labour 
    Earlier this year, this Update took note of continued efforts by regulators to effect trade barriers for products manufactured under conditions amounting to serious human rights violations. Among other things, we noted the concern expressed by the G7 members at their June meeting regarding the use of forced labour in global supply chains. On 22 October, the G7 Trade Ministers published a joint statement reinforcing the G7 commitment to deepen their collaboration and support to the business community in order to eradicate forced labour in global supply chains and recognised that "trade policy can be one of the important tools in a comprehensive approach to prevent, identify and eliminate forced labour in global supply chains"  and that "forced labour is a global problem and effective action should be based on international labour standards, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP), and international standards on responsible business conduct, [...]"

    On 18 October, the EU Commission launched an online consultation platform on the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) where you all can share your view and provide proposals on TTC's work ahead. According to TTC inaugural Joint Statement of 29 September, the EU and US commit to collaborate on a number of key human rights issues including but not limited to: promotion of workers' rights and combatting child and forced labour; support for online protection of human rights defenders; consumer protection; and AI technologies that respect human rights and shared democratic values.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.