Five on Friday – Five Recent Developments that We’ve Been Watching Closely

iStock_000011057325XSmallIt’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 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; and a major expression of investor support for the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark.

  • On May 28, the International Bar Association (“IBA”) Council, the Association’s governing body, voted to adopt the IBA Practical Guide on Business and Human Rights for Business LawyersThe guide, which is intended to facilitate implementation of the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, was developed over the course of approximately 18 months of research and consultations with bar associations, individual attorneys, non-governmental organizations, academics, and companies. The guide notes that “[t]here is growing recognition that a strong business case exists for respecting human rights and that the management of risks, including legal risks, increasingly means that lawyers, and particularly business lawyers, need to take human rights into account in their advice and services.”
  • On June 20, the European Council adopted a set of “Conclusions on Business and Human Rights,” in part as a recognition of the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the U.N. Guiding Principles.  The non-binding text underlined the growing trend toward legislative and regulatory transparency requirements with regard to corporate efforts to address human rights-related risks. Specifically, the Council’s conclusions cite “the critical role of business transparency in enabling markets to recognise, incentivise and reward respect for human rights by companies, recognising the close linkage with other areas within the responsible business agenda e.g. private sector development and anti-corruption and anti-trafficking policies.”
  • On June 21, Know the Chain published its first benchmarking report of 20 information and communications technology (“ICT”) companies. The companies were benchmarked on their corporate policies and practice to address forced labor in their supply chains. Indicators used in the benchmarking included whether companies have processes in place to assess the risks of forced labor associated with specific commodities and regions, and whether companies integrate forced labor standards into supply contracts. The benchmarking was done on the basis of publicly available information. Companies that scored the highest in the initial report include HP, Apple, and Intel. Future benchmarking efforts will focus on the food and beverage and apparel sectors.

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