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Business, People and Planet Three Developments This Week

In Brief

I hope these updates are helpful to you in your work. For further information on each area, click on the hyperlinked text. Please do reach out if you have any feedback. My brief summaries of reports are not intended to replace reading the full reports which I encourage you to do if you have time! I repeat, and at times adjust, language from reports in summaries – you can click on the links to the full reports for exact quotes, if you need them. And many thanks to Maddie Wolberg for supporting me in this endeavour.

Week of 26 October 2020

Week of 19 October 2020

Week of 12 October 2020

Week of 5 October 2020

Mandatory human rights due diligence (HRDD) being debated at the EU level will help level the playing field so long as it (1) is accompanied by consequences (i.e. liability) strong enough to ensure companies do carry out HRDD, (2) is accompanied by accountability measures that incentivize companies to look at their full value chain – beyond those business partners that may give rise to liability risks, and (3) supports companies to conduct ‘quality’ HRDD, which includes certain key features of internal governance (Shift)

Week of 5 October 2020 Mandatory human rights due diligence (HRDD) being debated at the EU level will help level...

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Clothing retailer Boohoo’s directors knew for a fact that there were very serious issues about the treatment of factory workers in Leicester and whilst it put in place a programme intended to remedy this, it did not move quickly enough. Recommendations to the company include enhancing visibility of the full supply chain, promoting Tier 2 suppliers to Tier 1, establishing a new senior-level governance mechanism, having supply chain compliance as a standing item on every Board meeting agenda, educating buyers in the actual cost of fabricating garments, conducting due diligence and engaging suppliers (Alison Levitt QC Report)

Week of 5 October 2020 Clothing retailer Boohoo’s directors knew for a fact that there were very serious issues about...

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JPMorgan Chase, which has the largest loan exposures to fossil fuel companies of any bank, committed to setting greenhouse gas emissions targets for its portfolio in line with the 2015 Paris climate agreement. This move comes as climate activists, consumers and regulators put pressure on financial actors to take action on climate change, and signals a growing momentum towards financial sector accountability for the environmental and social impacts of their investments and loans (JPMorgan Chase)

Week of 5 October 2020 JPMorgan Chase, which has the largest loan exposures to fossil fuel companies of any bank,...

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Week of 28 September 2020

152 million children are in child labour, and it is becoming more prevalent in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic This challenge will exacerbate gaps in some countries’ efforts to end child labour, which in 2019 included policies that prevent or fail to support refugee, migrant, indigenous, disabled and rural children from attending school or accessing social services; corruption that precludes adequate legal enforcement; under-resourced and unempowered labour inspectorates; and a lack of laws and penalties to enforce minimum age of work and prevent children from undertaking hazardous or exploitative work (U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs)

Week of 28 September 2020 152 million children are in child labour, and it is becoming more prevalent in the...

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New Zealand is seeking to introduce the world’s first regulatory regime requiring institutions with over NZ$1bn in assets under management to disclose their climate risks following the framework set out by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD); the policy would cover approximately 90% of assets under management in the country and call for information on climate-related governance, strategy, risk management, metrics and targets (Minister for Climate Change, New Zealand Ministry of the Environment)

Week of 28 September 2020 New Zealand is seeking to introduce the world’s first regulatory regime requiring institutions with over...

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European companies that produce spyware and wiretapping tools export such technologies to a number of countries with poor human rights reputations where such technology can be used to monitor and crack down on journalists, dissidents and other individuals. The EU’s export regulation framework needs to be updated to tackle the growing EU biometric surveillance industry which is forecasted to experience at least five-fold growth by 2025 worldwide. In particular, facial recognition software linked to GPS location data is increasingly used (e.g. in China against the Uyghur ethnic minority group) to track individuals and groups, identify their ethnicity, analyse their behaviour and impose wide-ranging restrictions on their movement (Amnesty International)

Week of 28 September 2020 European companies that produce spyware and wiretapping tools export such technologies to a number of...

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Week of 21 September 2020

The European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs proposes text for the corporate due diligence and corporate accountability directive that EU Member States would transpose into national law. This new law would apply both to companies in the EU as well as companies providing goods and services in the internal market. It would require companies to conduct due diligence on human rights, environment (including climate change) and governance risks, with specific requirements to engage stakeholders and trade unions, create grievance mechanisms, provide remedy, and ensure boards and senior managers have the necessary responsibility and expertise (The European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs)

Week of 21 September 2020 The European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs proposes text for the corporate due diligence and...

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The UK Modern Slavery Act of 2015 will undergo changes to strengthen implementation, effectiveness and compliance. The UK Home Office has committed to mandating which areas statements must cover, making statements available on a Government-run reporting service and instituting a single reporting deadline to increase accountability and public awareness. It is also extending reporting requirements to public sector supply chains and will be considering stronger enforcement options, such as civil penalties for non-compliance (Home Office, Government of the United Kingdom)

Week of 21 September 2020 The UK Modern Slavery Act of 2015 will undergo changes to strengthen implementation, effectiveness and...

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Corporate commitments to purpose, such as those espoused by the Business Roundtable in 2019, are not clear indicators of a company’s future performance on social and human capital issues during times of crisis. Rather, companies that have a history of effectively and proactively managing challenging social issues are more likely to perform positively in the face of crises like the COVID-19 pandemic and the movement for social equality (KKS Advisors and Test of Corporate Purpose initiative)

Week of 21 September 2020 Corporate commitments to purpose, such as those espoused by the Business Roundtable in 2019, are...

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Week of 14 September 2020

For the first time, a U.S. regulatory body has found that climate change poses serious emerging risks to the US financial system, and calls on policymakers to take urgent and decisive steps to address these risks, including by implementing economy-wide carbon pricing, mandatory corporate climate-risk disclosure, and standardized reporting on risks and emissions (Subcommittee on Climate-Related Market Risk of the Committee on Market Risk Advisory, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission)

Week of 14 September 2020 For the first time, a U.S. regulatory body has found that climate change poses serious...

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Investor and civil society pressure played a significant role in Rio Tinto’s removal of its CEO and two other senior leaders following the company’s reliance on a legal permit to destroy sacred Aboriginal sites in Australia; this outcome—which impacts the top leadership of one of the largest mining companies in the world—is a powerful indicator of a growing shift towards investors holding companies accountable for their impacts on human rights and demonstrates to senior leadership that legal compliance is insufficient where the laws fall short of international standards

Week of 14 September 2020 Investor and civil society pressure played a significant role in Rio Tinto’s removal of its...

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There is a need to quantify and measure human rights impacts in a meaningful, robust way. This should entail (1) measuring data that provides a stronger indicator of actual impacts on people such as freedom of association, ratio of full employees to contract workers, CEO-worker pay ratios, and gender and racial equity and pay gaps, (2) measuring underlying structural factors that can be determiners of human rights risks, such as business model, corporate culture and governance and (3) moving away from metrics that can generate perverse incentives not to find issues (Caroline Rees and Robert G. Eccles)

Week of 14 September 2020 There is a need to quantify and measure human rights impacts in a meaningful, robust...

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Week of 7 September 2020

As companies and investors seek to scale up climate action to meet the targets of the 2015 Paris Agreement, green bonds have become prevalent tools to finance investments in climate mitigation solutions. Yet, they exclude companies and activities with some of the highest greenhouse gas emissions levels. Proposed ‘transition bonds’ can be leveraged to help large emitters reimagine themselves in a world that has renewed priorities for greenhouse gas management and climate resilience (Climate Bonds Initiative and Credit Suisse)

Week of 7 September 2020 As companies and investors seek to scale up climate action to meet the targets of...

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When operating in conflict-affected areas, companies have a responsibility to conduct heightened human rights due diligence which includes seeking out conflict-sensitive resources and advisors, incorporating atrocity prevention and conflict prevention tools into due diligence, developing conflict-sensitive operational-level grievance mechanisms, actively engaging local communities and groups, applying a gender-responsive approach, and actively participating in truth and reconciliation processes (UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights)

Week of 7 September 2020 When operating in conflict-affected areas, companies have a responsibility to conduct heightened human rights due...

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New evidence shows that revenue from a Myanmar conglomerate (Myanma Economic Holdings – MEHL) finances the Myanmar military and the atrocities committed, including the recent genocide against the Rohingya Muslims. Companies that have business relationships with MEHL are viewed as financing the military’s human rights violations and – faced with MEHL’s secrecy and lack of leverage – have no other option than to disengage responsibly (Amnesty International)

Week of 7 September 2020 New evidence shows that revenue from a Myanmar conglomerate (Myanma Economic Holdings – MEHL) finances...

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Week of 31 August 2020

Qatar has introduced new labour laws: the country is establishing the first minimum wage in the Gulf States, which will increase the wages of 400,000 migrant workers by 33%. The country is also dismantling the ‘kafala’ sponsorship system and enabling migrant workers to change employers, and exit and enter the country for work more easily. Observers welcomed the reforms in the context of the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, which relies heavily on migrant labour in the construction sector, and are now focused on implementation.

Week of 31 August 2020 Qatar has introduced new labour laws: the country is establishing the first minimum wage in...

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The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency issued its first penalty (of $575,000) against a company (Pure Circle) for importing goods (stevia leaves) into the U.S. processed in China with prison labour; we are seeing growing use of Section 307 of the U.S. Tariff Act to push companies to remove forced labour from their supply chains, with recent scrutiny on goods produced with cotton from the Xinjiang region of China

Week of 31 August 2020 The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency issues its first penalty (of $575,000) against a...

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Biodiversity loss is a systemic risk, and the unprecedented loss of biodiversity places more than half of the world’s gross domestic product (US$44 trillion) at risk. Institutional investors are urged to take action, including by (1) promoting investor awareness, commitments and initiatives; (2) investing in companies that protect biodiversity; (3) engaging with companies to promote biodiversity objectives; (4) advocating for strong biodiversity regulation; and (5) requesting meaningful data on biodiversity risks and impacts (Principles for Responsible Investment)

Week of 31 August 2020 Biodiversity loss is a systemic risk, and the unprecedented loss of biodiversity places more than...

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Week of 24 August 2020

The UK Government is seeking public comment on a proposal to implement due diligence legislation requiring companies to root out commodity-driven deforestation from their supply chains. The proposal builds on recent UK commitments to halt climate change and aid the growth of climate-resilient agriculture in developing countries, and echoes regulations being considered by the EU, Germany and others to implement mandatory due diligence (UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Week of 24 August 2020 The UK Government is seeking public comment on a proposal to implement due diligence legislation...

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As risk managers, insurers and investors, the insurance industry plays an important role in promoting economic, social and environmental sustainability. Insurance companies can manage ESG risks in their business by taking 8 steps: (1) developing an ESG approach; (2) establishing an ESG risk appetite; (3) integrating ESG issues throughout the organisation; (4) establishing clear roles and responsibilities for ESG issues; (5) escalating ESG risks to decision-makers; (6) detecting and analysing ESG risks; (7) making strategic decisions on ESG risks; and (8) tracking and reporting publicly on ESG risks (UNEP-FI Principles for Sustainable Insurance Initiative)

Week of 24 August 2020 As risk managers, insurers and investors, the insurance industry plays an important role in promoting...

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In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, emerging technology like contact tracing apps has arisen as a key tool to track the spread of the virus and protect public health. Faced with a growing risk of governments using these technologies to violate human rights and exacerbate conflict, tech companies have a responsibility to address the impacts of their products, including collectively through multi-stakeholder initiatives and individually through strong policies and oversight mechanisms (JustPeace Labs)

Week of 24 August 2020 In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, emerging technology like contact tracing apps has arisen...

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Week of 17 August 2020

One year on from the Business Roundtable statement, corporate purpose has been widely adopted by companies without a shared understanding of what this means in practice. A new initiative launched this week to provide a SCORE (Simplify, Connect, Own, Reward and Exemplify) framework to guide boards of directors in embedding and enacting purpose-led strategies in business decision-making (the Enacting Purpose Initiative)

Week of 17 August 2020 One year on from the Business Roundtable statement, corporate purpose has been widely adopted by...

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As the post-pandemic recovery ramps up, investors should engage strategically with policymakers to ensure that recovery plans are inclusive, sustainable and promote respect for human rights and the environment. Recommended actions include aligning engagement with investment objectives, working within the resource constraints and timelines of public policymaking processes and providing technical expertise, working collaboratively with other investors, influencing public debate through the policy process and the media, and being transparent about the investment impacts of policies (Principles for Responsible Investment)

Week of 17 August 2020 As the post-pandemic recovery ramps up, investors should engage strategically with policymakers to ensure that...

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A survey of 2,000 Americans found that, while companies are viewed as having an equal responsibility to all of their stakeholders, over half of respondents don’t believe companies are having a positive impact on workers. Corporations are perceived to be having the greatest negative impacts on the environment, workers’ financial well-being, and workers’ health and well-being (JUST Capital)

Week of 17 August 2020 A survey of 2,000 Americans found that, while companies are viewed as having an equal...

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Week of 10 August 2020

There are seven key problem drivers that contribute to corporate short-termism within EU publicly traded companies. A possible future EU action in the area of company law and corporate governance should pursue the objective of fostering more sustainable corporate governance and contributing to more accountability for companies’ sustainable value creation (European Commission-commissioned study)

Week of 10 August 2020 Technology business models and the rapidly evolving landscape of the technology sector create conditions enabling...

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In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers should protect the rights and health of migrant workers in their own operations and supply chains by protecting their physical and mental health, ensuring safe living and working conditions, providing economic support, implementing ethical recruitment practices, requiring suppliers to implement safeguards for their own workers and conducting due diligence in supply chains (IOM and ICC)

Week of 10 August 2020 In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers should protect the rights and health of...

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Garment workers around the world are owed in between 3.19 and 5.78 billion USD in unpaid wages for the first three months of the pandemic. Brands are asked to both sign onto the ILO-coordinated Covid-19 Action Plan for the Garment Industry and to take specific, enforceable measures to ensure workers in their supply chain will receive their wages and benefits, including back pay or severance pay (Clean Clothes Campaign)

Week of 10 August 2020 Garment workers around the world are owed in between 3.19 and 5.78 billion USD in...

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Week of 3 August 2020

Technology business models and the rapidly evolving landscape of the technology sector create conditions enabling tech companies to adversely impact human rights. Companies, their investors and policymakers must conduct human rights due diligence, increase transparency and consider the wide-reaching human rights impacts of tech products and services throughout their lifecycle (OHCHR B-Tech Project)

Week of 3 August 2020 Technology business models and the rapidly evolving landscape of the technology sector create conditions enabling...

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Investors are uniquely positioned to (and have a responsibility to) conduct due diligence and leverage their collective influence to help end state-sanctioned forced labour in Xinjiang, China; there are a number of concrete actions they can take today with civil society, industry, governments and international organisations (Investor Alliance for Human Rights)

Week of 3 August 2020 Investors are uniquely positioned to (and have a responsibility to) conduct due diligence and leverage...

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A Thai civil court has agreed to grant class-action status to a case filed by over 700 Cambodian families seeking remedy for the seizure of farmlands and razing of homes and crops by a Thai company in Cambodia; the decision by the court marks the first transboundary class-action lawsuit in Southeast Asia for adverse human rights impacts and could have implications for future corporate accountability cases in the region (Smit Tit, Hoy Mai & Others vs. Mitr Phol Co. Ltd)

Week of 3 August 2020 A Thai civil court has agreed to grant class-action status to a case filed by...

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Week of 27 July 2020

2019 saw a record 212 killings of land and environmental defenders globally, with actual killings likely higher in number. Over half of all reported killings occurred in Colombia and the Philippines; Latin America experienced the most killings of any region; and indigenous communities and women are particularly vulnerable. Killings have significantly increased in the logging sector, and are high in the mining, extractives and agribusiness sectors (Global Witness)

Week of 27 July 2020 2019 saw a record 212 killings of land and environmental defenders globally, with actual killings...

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Since 2017, over 1 million Uyghurs have been detained in ‘re-education’ camps in Xinjiang, China, and forced to work in factories that supply companies – including in the apparel and textiles sector and food sector. A coalition of organizations and trade unions calls on companies to trace their supply chains and end sourcing of goods produced with forced labour (Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region)

Week of 27 July 2020 Since 2017, over 1 million Uyghurs have been detained in ‘re-education’ camps in Xinjiang, China,...

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Companies should stop framing their responses to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement as voluntary: they need to consider ways (1) to support workers participating in protests, (2) in which their own operations, products of services could be connected to racial discrimination and (3) to meaningfully inform their BLM advocacy, through engagement with affected stakeholders (Shift)

Week of 27 July 2020 Companies should stop framing their responses to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement as voluntary:...

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Week of 20 July 2020

The global pandemic brings an opportunity for food retailers to recognize workers’ and farmers’ true value. A “transformative change” would include designing meaningful metrics, enabling senior ownership, incentivizing suppliers, training purchasing and supply chain management to become champions of human rights due diligence, pushing investors to take a long-term stakeholder value approach and engaging in advocacy with governments (Oxfam)

Week of 20 July 2020 The global pandemic brings an opportunity for food retailers to recognize workers’ and farmers’ true...

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The anti-corruption and business and human rights agendas are closely interconnected, with corruption-related human rights abuses occurring in particular in public procurement and concessions, land acquisition, health and pharmaceutical supply chains and the extractive sector. Companies can leverage anti-corruption compliance to embed consideration of risks to people into core business processes (UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights)

Week of 20 July 2020 The anti-corruption and business and human rights agendas are closely interconnected, with corruption-related human rights...

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Week of 6 July 2020

As the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights launches the UNGPs10+/NextDecadeBHR project, global leaders reflect on priorities, including national and EU due diligence legislation, protection of environmental and human rights defenders, access to remedy for victims, a just climate transition, the role of investors and alignment with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals

Week of 6 July 2020 As the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights launches the UNGPs10+/NextDecadeBHR project, global...

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The U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear appeals by Nestlé and Cargill to dismiss allegations of complicity in child labor and slavery in cocoa supply chains in Côte d’Ivoire; the Supreme Court’s decision will have significant implications on the use of the Alien Tort Statute to bring U.S. companies to court for violations of international human rights law abroad (John Doe I et al v. Nestlé et al)

Week of 6 July 2020 The U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear appeals by Nestlé and Cargill to dismiss allegations...

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As the COVID-19 pandemic creates a “new normal” for countries, companies and communities globally, upcoming trends include the strengthening of the sustainable energy transition, the shift to sustainable transportation options, a greater need for improved ESG data and for credit ratings agencies to play a stronger role, and the push from citizens and consumers for governments and companies to be taking actions aimed at addressing climate change (Generation Investment Management LLP)

Week of 6 July 2020 As the COVID-19 pandemic creates a “new normal” for countries, companies and communities globally, upcoming...

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Week of 29 June 2020

With a decade left to achieve the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals, businesses have made progress in creating internal awareness and setting goals on climate and decent work, but struggle to integrate the SDGs into their core business strategies and create ambitious, targeted goals for social goals. The UN Global Compact launches an urgent call to action with specific asks of all companies for the next ‘Decade of Action’.

Week of 29 June 2020 With a decade left to achieve the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals, businesses have made...

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The transition to a net-zero carbon economy is necessary, but in a way that considers the rights of workers and neighbouring communities; a new benchmark reveals significant risks of harm taking place in the renewable energy sector, including killings, threats, and intimidation; land grabs; dangerous working conditions and poverty wages; and harm to indigenous peoples’ lives and livelihoods (Business & Human Rights Resource Centre)

Week of 29 June 2020 The transition to a net-zero carbon economy is necessary, but in a way that considers...

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Week of 15 June 2020

Week of 8 June 2020

Week of 1 June 2020

“The theme for World Environment Day, 5 June 2020 is biodiversity — a call to action to combat the accelerating species loss and degradation of the natural world. One million plant and animal species risk extinction, largely due to human activities. … The good news is that we can reverse the trends of biodiversity loss by reimagining our relationship with nature and acting now to increase ambition and accountability for its protection. We must conserve and restore wildlife and wild spaces, change the way we produce and consume food, promote environmentally friendly infrastructure and transform economies to become custodians of nature.”

Week of 27 April 2020

Week of 10 February 2020

Week of 10 February 2020

Week of 10 February 2020

Week of 13 January 2020