The 2017 benchmarking report ranked 98 of the world’s largest publicly traded companies on their human rights performance using 100 specific performance indicators. The CHRB has focused on companies in the following three industry sectors: agriculture;… More
Category Archives: U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
Between November 27-29, over 2,000 delegates gathered in Geneva to attend the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights. The central theme of this year’s Forum was “Realizing Access to Effective Remedy,” which is the third Pillar of the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (“U.N. Guiding Principles”).
A Working Group of specialists on international law, human rights, and conflict management have suggested one potential approach to strengthening the third Pillar,… More
It’s Friday and time for another overview of developments in the field of business and human rights that we’ve been monitoring.
This week’s post includes: a revised Toolkit on National Action Plans on business and human rights; a new automobile industry initiative to address the social and environmental risks associated with raw materials sourcing; and a report from the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights on the efforts of internet platform companies to address content that incites terrorism or that represents politically motivated disinformation.… More
It’s Friday and time for another overview of developments in the field of business and human rights that we’ve been monitoring.
This week’s post includes: a look ahead at the upcoming UN Forum on Business and Human Rights; a decision in the Nevsun case by the British Columbia Court of Appeal; and the first decision by a NCP to hear a complaint focused on the impacts of climate change.… More
A Business and Human Rights Treaty: Updates from the Third Session of the Intergovernmental Working Group
The Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group that is considering an international treaty on business and human rights held its third session from October 23-27 in Geneva. A draft report of the session is available here.
The mandate of the Working Group, as set forth by the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2014, is “to elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law,… More
It’s Friday and time for another overview of developments in the field of business and human rights that we’ve been monitoring.
This week’s post includes: a paper from on the proposed draft elements for an international treaty on business and human rights; new guidance from the United Kingdom with regard to compliance with the Modern Slavery Act; and a review of corporate responsibility reporting.
- On September 29,…
This week’s post includes a number of new guidance documents and tools, including materials on: the elimination of recruitment fees; assurance efforts with regard to human rights reporting and performance; and the development of social compliance systems.
This week’s post includes: a new report from the U.N. Working Group on Business and Human Rights; a report evaluating corporate efforts to assess forced labor risks in sugarcane supply chains; and a revised report reviewing national action plans on business and human rights as issued by 18 countries.… More
This week’s post includes: the U.S. Government’s amicus brief in Jesner v. Arab Bank; a Declaration from the Leaders of the G20; and a commitment to renew the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.
- On June 27, the U.S.…
This week’s post includes: the announcement of a new corporate alliance intended to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace; the release of a paper by Professor John Ruggie on the development of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; and guidance from the UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights on the human rights responsibilities of banks.… More
This week’s post includes: an effort by Twitter to enjoin U.S. Government demands for information regarding a user account critical of the Trump Administration; an announcement that seven telecommunications companies have joined the Global Network Initiative; and a decision by EITI to make project-level payment reporting mandatory.… More
This week’s post includes: new reports on the U.S. National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct, corporate disclosures pursuant to the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, and shareholder proposals on social and environmental issues; the second discussion paper published by the Thun Group of Banks;… More
This week’s post includes: updates on litigation in the Doe v. Nestle case; a private members’ bill in the United Kingdom that would expand the scope of the Modern Slavery Act; and an easing of U.S. sanctions against Sudan.
- As noted previously,…
This week’s post includes: IHRB’s annual list of the Top 10 business and human rights issues for the coming year; the latest benchmarking report from Know the Chain focused on apparel and footwear companies; and the release of a reference annex to the IBA Practical Guide on Business and Human Rights for Business Lawyers.… More
This week’s post includes: new reports on the corporate responsibility to respect human rights; a report on sustainability disclosures in corporate filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”); a draft law in France that would require companies to conduct human rights due diligence; and developments in human rights litigation against Chiquita.… More
Five on Friday – Five Recent Developments that We’ve Been Watching Closely (Special Post-Election Edition)
It’s Friday and time for an overview of developments in the field of business and human rights that we’ve been monitoring. This week’s post is focused entirely on responses to the recent election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States.
This week’s post includes: the potential for changes to legislation and regulation related to the human rights impacts of business activity; private sector support for continued U.S.… More
This week’s post includes: the first annual report from the U.K. Anti-Slavery Commissioner; a new benchmarking report from Know the Chain focused on food and beverage companies; and the results of a survey on corporate human rights due diligence efforts.
- On October 12,…
This week’s post includes: an important decision by the Supreme Court of British Columbia with regard to a case raising forced labor concerns; the release of the U.S. Department of Labor’s most recent List of Goods Produced by Child Labor and Forced Labor;… More
This week’s post includes: the GAO’s latest report on the conflict minerals rule; a civil society report on the SEC’s efforts to modernize financial disclosure requirements; and an independent impact assessment of the Better Work Programme.
- At the end of August, the U.S.…
This week’s post includes: a new report from the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression; reviews of the latest round of conflict minerals reports; corporate efforts to address the risks of sex and labor trafficking in connection with the Olympic Games;… More
This week’s post includes: the release of the third, and likely final, draft of the World Bank’s revised safeguard policies; guidance for management accountants on how to identify human rights-related risks and manage human rights performance; and developments in a major Alien Tort Statute case.
- On July 20,…
This week’s post includes: a new guide for business lawyers from the International Bar Association that seeks to promote implementation of the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; the public release of Know the Chain’s first report benchmarking technology companies on efforts to address forced labor in their supply chains;… More
This post was originally published on The Huffington Post.
Five years ago today, on June 16, 2011, the way we view the human rights responsibilities of companies changed. On that day, the United Nations Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (the “Guiding Principles”). This endorsement could have gone unnoticed except by those in the room at the time,… More
This week’s post includes: new guidance for boards of directors on business and human rights; the launch of the Responsible Sourcing Tool; the release of the 2016 Global Slavery Index; and a new code of conduct in Europe by which American Internet companies have committed to taking actions to combat illegal hate speech.… More
This week’s post includes: new private and public initiatives on recruitment fees, including a proposal to further amend the U.S. Government’s Federal Acquisition Regulation to provide a clear definition of such fees; the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by victims of the Rana Plaza factory collapse;… More
This week’s post includes: developments on mandatory disclosure requirements in both the United States and Europe; a new report from Professor John Ruggie addressing the human rights responsibilities of FIFA; and an update from Oxfam on its “Behind the Brands” campaign.
- On April 14,…
This week’s post includes: the first reports published pursuant to the requirements of the U.K. Modern Slavery Act; an overview of social and environmental shareholder proposals filed for the 2016 proxy season; and a new effort to benchmark technology companies on their policies and practices with regard to forced labor in their supply chains.… More
On March 21, the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (“CHRB”) released the methodology that it will use to rank 100 companies on their human rights performance as part of an initial pilot. The companies chosen for the pilot include members of the extractive, apparel, and agricultural sectors.
Earlier this year, the CHRB announced the list of companies that it will assess as part of the pilot effort.… More
This week’s post includes: Apple’s refusal to comply with a federal court order; a new report highlighting the most pressing business and human rights challenges facing companies today; and an evaluation of corporate compliance with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act.
- Apple made headlines this week when it announced that it would not comply with a federal court order requiring the company to assist the FBI in unlocking the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters.…
This week’s post includes: recent developments with regard to a major Alien Tort Statute case; the announcement of a pilot effort to benchmark corporate human rights performance; and a major new report demonstrating the potential links between anti-corruption compliance programs and effort to eradicate labor trafficking in corporate supply chains.… More
Attorneys in Foley Hoag’s Corporate Social Responsibility (“CSR”) practice and the U.N. Environment Programme Finance Initiative (“UNEP FI”) recently collaborated on a report analyzing the implications of the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights for the banking sector. A copy of the report is available here.
In addition to assessing the implications of the U.N. Guiding Principles, the report evaluates existing national and international human rights laws and the extent to which these existing laws may create potential liabilities for banks and/or their officers.… More
Companies face a range of new requirements and expectations calling for enhanced transparency regarding human rights-related risks in connection with their operations. Responsible compliance with both mandatory requirements and voluntary standards requires a coordinated internal approach that seeks to address the concerns of key stakeholders while mitigating potential legal risks.
Examples of new transparency requirements include:
This week’s post includes notice of several new lawsuits regarding human rights concerns in corporate supply chains as well as coverage of the European Court of Justice’s recent decision to strike down the 15-year old “Safe Harbor” agreement allowing companies to self-certify that their data transfers between the United States and Europe are in compliance with E.U.… More
This week’s post includes a number of recent reports on issues ranging from conflict minerals to children’s rights. It also notes the release of the Sustainable Development Goals and the convening of Climate Week NYC.… More
In late July, Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced H.R. 3226, the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2015. The bill, if passed, would require companies to file annual reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) disclosing their efforts to identify and address specific human rights risks in their supply chains. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is expected to introduce a companion bill in the Senate.… More
At the conclusion of the G7 Summit held on June 7 and 8, the assembled leaders released a declaration endorsing the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Specifically, leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan stated that
We strongly support the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and welcome the efforts to set up substantive National Action Plans.… More
Shareholder proposals filed during this year’s proxy season reflect investors’ continued concerns about the social and environmental impacts of corporate operations. The Proxy Preview published by As You Sow, the Sustainable Investments Institute, and Proxy Impact, provides an overview of the 433 non-binding shareholder proposals that had been filed by investors for the 2015 proxy season as of mid-February.… More
U.N. Guiding Principles Reporting Framework Released by the Human Rights Reporting and Assurance Frameworks Initiative
In late February, after 18 months of research and consultation, a new Reporting Framework has been released to help companies report on their human rights performance in a manner aligned with the expectations set forth in the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Reporting Framework is intended to enable companies of all sizes, and in all sectors, to report on their efforts to operate consistently with the corporate responsibility to respect human rights.… More
Frequently Asked Questions on the U.S. Government’s National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct
On February 12, the U.S. Department of State released a set of “Frequently Asked Questions” (“FAQs”) with regard to the U.S. Government’s efforts to develop a National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct. The plan is expected to be released by the end of this year.
As announced in September, the U.S. Government is working on a National Action Plan “to promote and incentivize responsible business conduct,… More
Protecting the Rights of Children Should Be Integral to Every Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy
Consideration of the rights of children should be integral to any Corporate Social Responsibility (“CSR”) strategy or policy. Traditionally, companies have focused on reducing and eliminating the use of child labor in their supply chains as a means of protecting the rights of children. While important, companies should keep in mind that respecting and protecting children’s rights extends far beyond the use of child labor.… More
Civilian application of drone technology has increased dramatically in recent years. The burgeoning civilian opportunities are a potential boon for investors, who view this emerging market as one that will expand long into the future, notwithstanding current and pending regulation of the industry. VCs are eager to get in on a piece of the action.
Notably, drones have historically been used primarily by the military,… More
In November, the Government of Canada announced a revised Corporate Social Responsibility (“CSR”) strategy for the extractive sector. Building on Canada’s plan for Responsible Resource Development, the strategy (“Doing Business the Canadian Way: Advancing Corporate Social Responsibility in Canada’s Extractive Sector Abroad“) focuses on the activities of extractive sector companies, but is intended to provide “a more general audience with an overview of Canada’s approach to promoting and advancing CSR abroad.”… More
The Business and Human Rights Working Group of the International Bar Association (“IBA”) recently released draft guidance for bar association and business lawyers on implementation of the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (“the U.N. Guiding Principles”).
As stated in a press release by the IBA, the intent of the draft guidance for bar associations is to:
- encourage bar associations to improve understanding of the relevance and applicability of business and human rights principles;…
On September 24, at a meeting of the Open Government Partnership at the United Nations, President Obama announced that the U.S. Government would develop a national action plan to promote responsible business conduct. The United States had been under considerable pressure from civil society organizations and others to develop such a plan.
Specifically, and as stated in a fact sheet released by the White House:
The United States will develop a National Action Plan to promote and incentivize responsible business conduct,… More
Companies increasingly face expectations that they will “know and show” that they are taking appropriate steps to manage the human rights impacts associated with their business activities. New transparency requirements on issues ranging from conflict minerals to investments in Burma reflect this trend.
With respect to human trafficking, existing statutes such as the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act and proposed statutes such as the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act require companies to report on their efforts to conduct due diligence on their supply chains in order to identify the risks of human trafficking.… More
On June 11, Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced H.R. 4842, the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2014. The bill, if passed, would require companies to file annual reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) disclosing their efforts to identify and address specific human rights risks in their supply chains.
The proposed federal legislation, co-sponsored by Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ),… More
The European Union took another step toward requiring large companies to publish social and environmental performance reports when the European Parliament approved amendments to a draft directive by a 599-55 majority last week. All that now remains for the measure to come into force is for the leaders of the 28 EU member states to approve the directive by a qualified majority at their next meeting,… More
Corporate social responsibility (“CSR”) may have its roots in voluntary efforts by businesses to address their broader impacts on society, but the trend towards CSR becoming mandatory advanced significantly this week under a deal that will soon require all large European companies to begin issuing annual social and environmental performance reports.
On February 26, the European Council and the European Commission reached an agreement that all but guarantees that the forthcoming European directive on corporate social responsibility will require all publicly traded companies with more than 500 employees to report their performance on a number of non-financial metrics every year.… More
In November, Gwen Jaramillo and I published a piece in Practical Law that looked at trends relevant to CSR. The piece covered a range of topics, including new legislative and regulatory requirements, the role of the board of directors, and key concerns for corporate general counsel.
In noting the key role of the board in overseeing a company’s approach to CSR,… More
Gare founded the CSR practice in 2000 after serving as Senior Foreign Policy Advisor and Counsel to U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy,… More
Earlier this month, a group of global banks known as the Thun Group released a discussion paper exploring the ways in which financial institutions might seek to integrate the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights into their core business activities.
Current members of the Thun Group include Barclays, BBVA, Credit Suisse AG, ING Bank N.V., RBS Group,… More
Increasingly, companies will face explicit demands from investors, especially members of the socially responsible investor community, that they provide detailed disclosures regarding internal processes and procedures to assess and manage the human rights impacts of their operations. For many companies, responding to these requests will require careful review of the nature of the impacts of their operations and the development of internal capacity to understand and communicate those impacts through a human rights lens.… More
This week, members of the United Nations (“U.N.”) Working Group on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations are making an official visit to the United States as part of the Group’s mandate to promote the effective implementation of the U.N.… More
As mentioned in last week’s post, participants in the Voluntary Principles Initiative recently held their Annual Plenary Meeting. The discussions began with opening addresses from Professor John Ruggie, the former U.N. Special Representative on Business and Human Rights and author of the U.N. Guiding Principles, and Dr. Margaret Jungk, from the U.N.… More
On March 13-14, participants in the Voluntary Principles Initiative gathered in The Hague for the 2013 Annual Plenary Meeting. Foley Hoag’s Corporate Social Responsibility (“CSR”) practice has served as the Secretariat for the Voluntary Principles Initiative since June 2010.
Established in 2000, the Voluntary Principles Initiative is a tri-partite multistakeholder initiative that provides guidance to companies in extractive industries on maintaining the safety and security of their operations within a framework that ensures respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.… More
The Telecommunications Industry Dialogue, a group of eight telecommunications companies, recently published a set of Guiding Principles on freedom of expression and privacy. Originally formed in 2011, the Industry Dialogue also announced a two-year partnership with the Global Network Initiative.
As memories of New Year’s Eve fade, and another Inauguration Day winds down in Washington, D.C., it’s time to look ahead and identify key events and emerging trends that we think will help shape the business and human rights agenda in 2013.
Here are five developments that we’ll be watching closely:
Further integration of human rights considerations into business management systems. Eighteen months after the release of the U.N.… More
On December 4 and 5, more than 1,000 participants from 85 countries gathered for the first U.N. Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland. The Forum focused on “trends and challenges” in the implementation of the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (the “Guiding Principles”), which were formally endorsed by the U.N. Human Rights Council in June 2011. The Forum includes discussions of a broad set of key issues in the business and human rights space,… More
Western companies are more accountable than Chinese companies – via tort suits, civil society pressure, government regulation, and non-judicial accountability mechanisms such as the OECD Guidelines, to name a few. Although Western companies’ operations do create negative social, environmental and human rights impacts,… More
The proposed draft of the revised Equator Principles, released on August 13, reflects a greater focus on human rights, with explicit mention of the expectation of human rights due diligence as set forth in the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The revised Principles also cover a wider range of project financing structures in recognition of the fact that the project finance market has diversified significantly since the Principles were first released in 2003.… More
Amy Lehr, the author of this post, will be presenting during a webinar on “Responsible Business in Myanmar: Operating Context, Sanctions, and International CSR Standards,” this Thursday, August 16, at 11:00 a.m. She will be joined by John Ruggie and Gare Smith. Information on registration can be found here.
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The U.S. decision to ease financial and investment sanctions on Burma for the first time since 1997 is a landmark – and controversial – moment.… More
One of the challenges for companies seeking to manage the adverse human rights impacts of their operations is how to deal with impacts that are most directly tied to business partners, suppliers, and even governments. Companies have varying degrees of control over the actions of third parties, and yet the activities of third parties have the potential to expose companies to a range of reputational – and legal – risks.… More
I recently published an op-ed in The Christian Science Monitor cautioning companies seeking to make investments in Burma (Myanmar) to make sure that the inflow of new investments does not end up harming the country’s long-suffering citizens.
The op-ed recommends that such companies undertake human rights due diligence, consistent with United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,… More
Access, an advocacy organization that promotes open and secure access to the Internet, recently released its Telco Action Plan, a document that sets forth ten steps and implementation objectives for telecommunications companies (“telcos”) seeking to operate with respect for human rights.
Access launched the plan at last month’s Stockholm Internet Forum and intends to use the document as a platform for dialogue with telcos that seek to operate in political and legal contents that may post threats to freedom of expression,… More
U.S. Supreme Court Review of Corporate Liability Under the Alien Tort Statute — An Overview of the Oral Arguments in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum
On February 28, in proceedings that were both closely watched and anxiously anticipated, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. For the first time, the question of whether corporations are proper defendants in Alien Tort Statute ("ATS") cases is squarely before the Court. Petitioners had sought Supreme Court review of a decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals finding that corporations are not proper defendants under the ATS.… More
A coalition of 80 institutional investors sent a letter to Congress last week in support of the Business Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act (HR 2759). As discussed previously, the proposed legislation would require companies to disclose efforts to identify and address the risks of human trafficking, forced labor, slavery, and the worst forms of child labor in their supply chains.
Former UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights John Ruggie, now a senior advisor to our CSR practice, recently authored an article in Corporate Secretary magazine in which he observed that there has been a "convergence of expectations" with regard to business responsibilities in the area of human rights.
These expectations are set forth in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,… More
Business Ethics magazine recently published an interview with John Ruggie, the former U.N. Special Representative on Business and Human Rights who recently joined Foley Hoag’s CSR practice as a senior advisor. Michael Connor, Editor and Publisher of Business Ethics, conducted the interview. The conversation focused on the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the business drivers for respecting human rights, and the ways in which the Principles have been adopted by both public and private stakeholders.… More
More than a Resource: Water, Business, and Human Rights, a recent report by the Institute for Human Rights and Business (“IHRB”) calls on companies to take action to respect the human right to water.
The report references the emerging consensus among international institutions that businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights, and highlights the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,… More
September 7, 2011 — John G. Ruggie, the former U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Business and Human Rights and current Harvard professor, has joined Foley Hoag LLP’s Corporate Social Responsibility Practice as a senior advisor.