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Human Rights


Policy and regulatory developments

A few examples of recent policy, legal and regulatory measures relevant to business and human rights:

  • National Action Plan (NAP): In September 2013 the UK launched the world's first NAP. In its NAP the UK government includes a number of actions to implement the UNGPs including in UK Government procurement, in the requirements of UKEF (UK Export Credit Agency) and in the agreements that facilitate investment overseas by UK or EU companies.
  • Modern Slavery Act: The UK passed into law the Modern Slavery Act 2015 on 26 March 2015. The Act create new obligations to companies to disclose their efforts and to take action to end slavery including through specific anti-slavery risk management and due diligence of their supply chain.
  • UK Companies Act Regulations 2013: Section 414C (7) (b) (iii) calls for quoted companies to prepare a strategic report which must include information on environmental matters, and social, community and human rights issues, “including information about any policies of the company in relation to those matters and the effectiveness of those policies.”
  • EU directive on non-financial reporting: The EU adopted Directive 2014/95/EU on disclosure of non-financial and diversity information requiring large undertakings which are public-interest entities to disclose in their management report, information on policies, risks and outcomes as regards environmental, social and employee matters, respect for human rights, anticorruption and bribery issues, and diversity in their board of directors.

Normative standards and rules for access to financing

A few examples of shifts in normative standards and rules for accessing financing:

  • The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises: The Guidelines were updated in 2011 to include a new chapter on Human Rights, which draws directly from the UNGPs and is in line with them requiring human rights due diligence. The Guidelines are implemented through National Contact Points, which accept complaints about company behaviour wherever they operate.
  • The International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards: The IFC - the World Bank’s private lending arm - updated its Performance Standards in 2012. The Performance Standards are directed towards private sector clients, providing guidance on how to identify risks and impacts. These now explicitly recognise the corporate responsibility to respect human rights as defined in the UNGPs and point to the need to undertake due diligence to manage environmental, social and human rights risks for projects.
  • The Equator Principles (EP): The EP is a risk management framework for ‘determining, assessing and managing environmental and social risk in projects’ and for providing ‘a minimum standard for due diligence to support responsible risk decision-making.’ 80 financial institutions have adopted the Principles, including large banks in the UK. In 2013 the EP were updated to specifically recognise due diligence as described in the UNGPs and to recognise both the financial institutions responsibilities towards human rights as well as the clients’

The corporate practices

A few examples of company commitments and their changes in practices:

  • The Global Business Initiative: GBI is a group of 18 corporations actively working to embed human rights practices and to reflect these in their dealings with other businesses and in theirsupply chain. GBI companies include Coca Cola, ABB, Bechtel, BASF, GE, Motorola, Sime Darby, Shell and Novo Nordisk.
  • Companies reporting on human rights issues: As part of the reporting requirements under US law, companies investing in Burma (beyond certain investment thresholds) must provide information on their human rights polices and processes including due diligence. Several companies have now filed their reports, which go beyond former disclosures on non-financial risks. Check herehere to see the reports.
  • UNGPs Reporting Framework: Major international companies and financial institutions have expressed their commitment to use the recently launched UNGPs reporting framework which is the first comprehensive guidance for companies to report on how they respect human rights based on the UNGPs. These companies include Unilever, H&M, Ericsson, Nestlé, Newmont and ABN Amro..
  • The Thun Group: Four leading international banks – Barclays, Credit Suisse, UBS and UniCredit – came together in May 2011 to create the Thun Group, an informal group to explore the implications of the UNGPs for the banking sector. The expected outcome is a practical application guide setting out the challenges and best practice examples of operationalizing the UNGPs in universal banks. BBVA, ING Bank NV and RBS Group have since then joined the group and a discussion paper was published in October 2013.

Stakeholder engagement - Written submissions

HR Essay Writing Competition

Stakeholder engagement is an important part of the Law Society business and human rights programme and we are interested to hear from you.

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Each year law students, trainee solicitors, pupil barristers and junior lawyers are invited to enter the Law Society's annual Graham Turnbull essay competition.

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