On October 11, 2021, the Covington Brussels office hosted a Webcast: “Fighting Inequality: Empowering Women and Girls” in honor of International Day of the Girl Child. London Partner Louise Nash moderated the impressive panel of women, comprising of Waris Dirie, founder of Desert Flower Foundation, and Kiera Chaplin, the President of Desert Flower Foundation France.

In coordinated action on 22 March 2021, the EU, US, Canada and the UK imposed sanctions on four Chinese officials accused of complicity in human rights violations in Xinjiang. The Chinese responded by imposing sanctions on a group of MEPs, European academics and think-tanks on 23 March and followed these announcements by imposing retaliatory sanctions

The UK Government recently announced that it is developing legislation that would make it illegal for large businesses operating in the UK to use certain commodities that have not been produced in line with local laws, and require in-scope companies to conduct due diligence to ensure that their supply chains are free from illegal deforestation

“Businesses that have better risk mitigation processes across their supply chains cause less harm to people… Good environmental, social, and governance practices pay off… We need to make sure that responsible business conduct and sustainable supply chains become the norm.”
EU Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, April 29, 2020

On April 29, 2020, in a webinar hosted by the European Parliament’s Responsible Business Conduct Working Group, EU Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders announced that the European Commission (the “Commission”) will move swiftly to introduce regulation on mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence for companies, with its legislative proposal to the European Parliament and Council expected in the first quarter of next year.

In this alert, we provide an overview of the comments and commitments made by Commissioner Reynders against the backdrop of the recently published Study on Due Diligence Requirements Through the Supply Chain (the “Study”), which considered possible EU-wide regulatory interventions relating to human rights and environmental due diligence, and which provides the impetus for the Commissioner’s announcement.

Consultations to inform the Commission’s legislative proposal are expected to start in the coming weeks, so we also set out some initial factors that commercial organizations operating in the European Union may want to consider as they seek to engage with this policy process.

  1. Background: the Study

Commissioner Reynders’s presentation centered around the findings of the Study, which was published in late February and conducted by an expert panel that included representatives of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, the London School of Economics and Political Science, and Civic Consulting, a public policy consultancy.

The Study involved: (i) a detailed examination of existing regulations and proposals for supply chain due diligence requirements, as well as market practices; (ii) the development of four general options for regulatory interventions at the EU level; and (iii) an assessment of the potential impact of these four options, based also on stakeholders’ perceptions of the different regulatory interventions.

In high-level terms, the Study identified and evaluated the following four options:

Option 1—No EU level policy change: This option would not involve any harmonized EU level regulatory intervention. The Study indicates that this option would be likely to result in a “patchwork” of due diligence expectations across the EU, as there are pending proposals or campaigns for mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence laws in 13 European countries, of which 11 are EU Member States.
Continue Reading European Union Justice Commissioner Commits to Regulation on Corporate Human Rights and Environmental Due Diligence

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In Part 3 of our blog series to honour the UN’s World Human Rights Day, we consider the evolving mineral supply chain due diligence landscape, focusing particularly on the implications of the London Metal Exchange Policy on Responsible Sourcing for the extractive industry.

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The theme of this year’s UN Forum