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.
- On November 29, the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (“ICAR”) and the Danish Institute for Human Rights (“DIHR”) released an updated version of their National Action Plan Toolkit. The Toolkit, as originally published in 2014, is intended to provide support for the development of National Action Plans on business and human rights, as well as a framework for the evaluation of Plans that have previously been developed by governments. The updated version incorporate extensive feedback from business and human rights practitioners and also aims to highlight recent best practices. As part of the updated Toolkit, ICAR and DIHR also released a draft baseline assessment template for use in evaluating the extent to which companies and governments have implemented the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
- On November 29, a coalition of civil society organizations — including ICAR, the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (“ECCJ”), CORE, Public Eye, and Above Ground — launched a new website, “Business & Human Rights in Law” (www.bhrinlaw.org). The site aims to track developments to embed the corporate responsibility to respect human rights into law, both through the enactment of statutes and through case law. Editors of the site will focus on developments that impose mandatory human rights due diligence requirements and parent company liability.
- On November 15, Know the Chain announced the list of 125 companies in three industry sectors that it will seek to benchmark in 2018 with regard to their efforts to address forced labor in their supply chains. The benchmarking efforts will continue to focus on companies in the apparel and footwear, information and communications technology, and food and beverage industry sectors. Know the Chain previously benchmarked 20 companies in each industry and, therefore, its efforts will be significantly expanded in the coming year. At the same time as it announced the list of companies, Know the Chain also released its revised methodology for the benchmarking effort.
- On November 7, a coalition of 10 large automobile manufacturers announced the formation of a new organization called the International Raw Materials Observatory. The Raw Materials Observatory is intended to facilitate cooperation on efforts to assess the social and environmental risks associated with auto sector supply chains through the sourcing of materials such as cobalt and mica. Participants in the initiative include Honda, Ford, BMW, Daimler, and Volkwagen. The Raw Materials Observatory was launched through the Drive Sustainability initiative, which was launched in March 2017 in order to provide a platform for collective engagement around sustainability in automobile supply chains.
- On November 3, the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights released a new study, Harmful Content: The Role of Internet Platform Companies in Fighting Terrorist Incitement and Politically Motivated Disinformation. The study examines the challenges faced by companies — including Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft — seeking to address harmful content as well as current corporate efforts to monitor and address such content. The authors call for more proactive efforts by companies, stating, “[c]orporate leaders should take responsibility to vindicate core societal interests, such as combating political disinformation and terrorist incitement, while elevating journalistic reporting and civil discourse.” The study concludes with a set of specific recommendations, including that companies should enhance internal assessments of vulnerabilities to harmful content, including through their advertising models. Notably, on December 7, at a meeting of the EU Internet Forum, the EU Security Commissioner called on companies to “speed up” their work in addressing harmful content or face EU legislation. On December 4, in a sign of the times and the challenges, Google announced that it would be hiring at least 10,000 additional content moderators, primarily to review YouTube content.
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