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 decision by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice addressing a corporation’s “duty of care” with regard to the employees of its suppliers; new IBA guidance for lawyers on integrating business and human rights considerations into their advice to clients; and a report evaluating corporate conflict minerals filings for calendar year 2016.

  • On July 5, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice dismissed a proposed class action lawsuit brought by plaintiffs injured in the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh. Plaintiffs in the case, Das v. George Weston Ltd., argued that Loblaw, its parent company George Weston Ltd., its subsidiary Joe Fresh Apparel, and its auditing firm Bureau Veritas were “vicariously liable” for the negligence of their Bangladeshi suppliers. Ultimately, after an extensive analysis, the Court found that no legally cognizable duty of care existed between the Canadian companies and their Bangladesh suppliers. As a policy matter, the Court stated that it would “not be fair or just” to find that Loblaw’s promulgation of CSR standards created a duty to address workplace conditions at a factory at which it had no direct control.
  • On July 24, Morningstar, Inc., the investment research firm, announced that it had acquired a 40% stake in Sustainalytics, one of the leading providers of environmental, social, and governance (“ESG”) research and ratings. To many in the business community, the announcement reflected the growth of responsible investing and the extent to which consideration of ESG considerations has become more a part of traditional investment analysis and decision-making.
  • On July 26, the Supreme Court of Canada issued its judgment in Clyde River (Hamlet) v. Petroleum Geo‑Services Inc.a case in which a Inuit community argued that Canada’s National Energy Board (“NEB”) had improperly authorized offshore seismic testing for oil and gas near Baffin Island. The Supreme Court held that the NEB’s consultation process with the indigenous community was inadequate, citing the fact that basic questions from the community regarding the impacts of the seismic testing went unanswered. The Court also observed that only a small percentage of the relevant documentation was translated into Inuktuit, the local language, and that much of the documentation was provided in the form of a nearly 4,000 page “practically inaccessible document dump.”

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