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 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.

  • On July 18, the U.N. Secretary-General delivered a new report from the U.N. Working Group on Business and Human Rights to the General Assembly. The report, which focuses on access to effective remedy under the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, states that business should “consider access to effective remedy as a lens to discharge their responsibilities” to operate with respect for human rights. The report makes a number of specific recommendations to companies, including that they not take action “that would remove or reduce the ability of an individual or community to enjoy” the right to remedy, and that they “[u]nderstand the concept of effective remedies in a broad sense to include a range of preventive, redressive and deterrent remedies, rather than merely payment of compensation.”
  • On August 23, the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (“ICAR”), the European Coalition for Corporate Justice, and the Center for the Study of Law, Justice, and Society released an updated version of their report on Assessments of Existing National Action Plans on Business and Human RightsThe updated report includes reviews of the national action plans (“NAPs”) of Norway, Colombia, the United Kingdom, Italy, Switzerland, and the United States. With regard to the U.S. Government’s NAP, released in December 2016, the report observes, “the NAP is strongly lacking in commitments to new regulatory measures…However, the NAP does outline some ongoing commitments and initiatives supported by the U.S. government that may incentivize companies to conduct due diligence and ensure their operations do not negatively impact human rights.”
  • On August 28, Know the Chain released a new report, How Food and Beverage Companies Tackle Forced Labor Risks in Sugarcane Supply Chainsreviewing the efforts of 10 companies to address forced labor risks in their sugarcane supply chains. Companies reviewed in the report included beverage companies, chocolate and confectionery manufacturers, and sugar producers. The report is a follow-up to Know the Chain’s October 2016 report benchmarking food and beverage companies on efforts to address forced labor risks. The 2016 report found that commodities in the lower tiers of corporate supply chains, like sugarcane, pose heightened forced labor risks. The new report found that, while companies are improving efforts to assess forced labor risks, they need to increase efforts to provide grievance mechanisms and remedy to workers in their commodity supply chains.
  • On August 30, a Brazilian federal court suspended a government decree that would have opened a large section of the Amazon to commercial mining. The government decree had been issued on August 23. The court found that the Government of Brazil had failed to conduct required consultations with Congress prior to issuing the decree and that the decree raised significant risks to the environment and to local indigenous communities. Local and international non-governmental organizations, including the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace, had condemned the decree. The Government of Brazil, which had already taken limited action to modify the decree prior to the court’s order, has said that it will appeal the court’s decision.
  • On September 7, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre released its latest corporate legal accountability bulletin. The bulletin focuses on lawsuits brought by companies against advocates for corporate accountability for social and environmental harms. The Centre calls on companies to support human rights defenders and notes the efforts of several governments to ensure that advocates can raise critiques without fear of disproportionate reprisal. The bulletin also provides updates on cases filed against companies in a wide range of countries, including the United States, Canada, Italy, and France.

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