The focus of this year’s UN Forum on Business and Human Rights was “putting rights holders at the centre” of business’ human rights due diligence efforts. In this post, ahead of Human Rights Day, we distill the important takeaways for business, drawing on Forum discussions among a range of stakeholders, including corporate representatives, governments, NGOs and rights-holders themselves.
1. The business and human rights legal landscape continues to evolve at a rapid pace and this trajectory will continue.
Many governments worldwide are considering and implementing new human rights due diligence legislative initiatives. Aside from laws already passed and the EU sustainability due diligence initiative (see our earlier alert), there are similar proposals on the table in Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, Brazil, and other countries. Japan recently published non-binding guidance for business, intended to drive good practice. Other countries are developing “National Action Plans” (“NAPs) under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (“UNGPs”), which can be a pre-curser to binding regulations. While legislative initiatives to date have largely been found in the Global North, we are also seeing movement in other regions: The African Union recently convened the first African Forum on Business and Human Rights.
While at varying stages of development and implementation, the fundamental tenets of these due diligence laws generally are similar. Companies are required to implement due diligence programs to identify and mitigate adverse human rights (and often environmental) impacts in their own operations and global supply or value chains.