With human rights increasingly crystallising into ‘hard law’, global businesses need to evaluate their performance as a key legal and strategic concern.
California’s Transparency in Supply Chains Act, the UK’s Modern Slavery Act, France’s Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law and the Netherlands’ Child Labour Bill are all evidence of how human rights are entering into statute around the world. Germany is currently working on its own law and will likely push for EU-wide legislation in second half of 2020 when they have the EU Council presidency. EU action may also provide a blueprint for similar legislation across the rest of the world.
Claims are being brought against multinational parent companies for infringements linked to overseas subsidiaries and/or global supply chains, while businesses are also exposed to quasi-litigation risk via the national contact point (NCP) procedure, which hears complaints about corporate human rights non-compliance in relation to the OECD’s guidelines for multinational enterprises.
Human rights issues are rising up the agenda, too, in the context of corporate transactions where they are now a vital element of M&A due diligence.
Many companies seek to go beyond their strict legal duties by adopting the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights – also known as the ‘Ruggie Principles’. Using the principles to scope and address human rights issues can help businesses assess and mitigate risk in a proportionate and iterative fashion, which in turn protects their reputation and preserves corporate value.
We participated in the research that led to the development of the Guiding Principles, and we have built a dedicated global business and human rights practice to advise our clients on the issues that flow from them.
We help our clients respect international human rights and comply with their legal obligations, while also advising on a range of related operational issues. See below for some recent examples.