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

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: the dismissal of a climate change lawsuit brought by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland; the launch of the Centre for Sport and Human Rights; and a new benchmarking report from Know the Chain.

  • On June 18, Know the Chain published its second benchmarking report of information and communications technology (“ICT”) companies. Forty companies were benchmarked on their corporate policies and practice to address forced labor in their supply chains. Indicators used in the benchmarking, which is done on the basis of publicly available information, 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. Companies that scored the highest in the initial report include Intel, HP, and Apple.
  • On June 21, Oxfam launched a new campaign, “Beyond the Barcodes.” The campaign will focus on human rights and labor rights concerns in food supply chains, with advocacy attention focused on major supermarket retailers. The campaign will look at corporate policies and efforts in the following thematic areas: transparency and accountability; women; workers; and farmers. The campaign’s initial report, Ripe for Change, focuses on 16 major retailers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and The Netherlands. The launch of the Behind the Barcodes campaign comes five years after the 2013 launch of Oxfam’s “Behind the Brands” campaign which called on the world’s largest food and beverage companies to address social and environmental concerns in their supply chains.
  • On June 25, the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia held that it maintained subject matter jurisdiction over the Al Shimari v. CACI case, despite the Supreme Court’s recent holding in Jesner v. Arab Bank. In the case, Plaintiffs have alleged that they were subject to torture and other mistreatment by CACI employees or agents while held at Abu Ghraib prison. In seeking dismissal of the case, CACI argued that Jesner raised questions with respect to how courts should consider separation of powers questions as well as international comity issues in the context of litigation pursuant to the Alien Tort Statute. In denying the request for dismissal, the Court observed that “the lawsuit before the Court involves foreign plaintiffs suing an American corporate defendant, which fully aligns with the original goals of the ATS: to provide a federal forum for tort suits by aliens against Americans for international law violations.”
  • On June 25, the District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a lawsuit filed by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland against five multinational oil companies, BP, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell.  The lawsuit sought to hold the companies accountable under a “public nuisance” theory of liability for present and future damages resulting from the impacts of climate change. In dismissing the case, the Court observed, “[t]he dangers raised in the complaints are very real. But those dangers are worldwide. Their causes are worldwide. The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case….The Court will stay its hand in favor of solutions by the legislative and executive branches.” A similar lawsuit is pending in New York.
  • On June 25, the Institute for Human Rights and Business launched a new Centre for Sport and Human Rights. Based in Geneva, the Centre will provide a platform for multi-stakeholder dialogue and action intended to mitigate the adverse human rights impacts of sporting activity, including mega-sporting events. The Centre is chaired by Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. At the launch event, Ms. Robinson observed, “[o]ur collective vision is a world of sport that fully respects human rights. The Centre will be a public good, working with sports bodies, event hosts, affected groups, and others to share knowledge, build capacity, and strengthen accountability.”

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