UK: CSOs call for mandatory human rights due diligence law to make multinationals accountable for abuses
We want to ensure that British companiesand financial institutions meet their responsibility torespect rights everywhere in the world. Some businesses already do so. But too many others are linked to serious abuses:exploitative working conditions, includingmodern slavery and child labour;toxic pollution;rampant destruction of rainforests; land-grabs and evictions of indigenouspeoples and local communities;and violent attacks on human rights defenders.
The people who suffer are often the most vulnerable and marginalised.Children can be disproportionately impacted by corporate activity.Women, including as workers and women organising to protect their communities from harmful corporate activities,alsoface particular risk of human rights abuses.
Despite more attention being paid to these issues in recent years, there are still no laws in the UK specifically requiring companies to take action to prevent and rectify human rights abusesand environmental damage.
Too many companies are doing nothing to identify and address the impacts that they have on human rights and the environment. Instead, they seek to profit by undercutting more responsible operators who are trying to raise standards. Meanwhile,British consumers are at risk of buying products tainted by horrificabuses and environmental devastation.
It’s time to change this.
What we’re calling for and how it would make a difference
Due diligence is a concept familiar to all companies. We want companies to be required to carry out human rightsand environmentaldue diligence–that is, to identify, assess and mitigate the risks toallhuman rightsand the environmentposed by their activities.
Mandatory human rightsand environmentaldue diligence is onemeasurethathas huge potential to change the way business operates around the world. If the company fails to actand abuses go unchecked, it could be held to accountin court.
A new law would increase protection for individuals and communities,workers,human rights defenders,and the environment. It would create clarity and a level playing field for companies. It would give consumers the confidence that human rights abusesand environmental damage aren’t part of the price tag for products. And it would enhance the UK’s reputation as a leader in promoting responsible business conduct.
Around the world, policy makers, business leaders, academics and campaigners are coming together to work for legislative change to end irresponsible corporate practices. At the UN, an intergovernmental working group is developing a new international legally binding agreement to regulate the activities of multinational companies and other businesses in international human rights law. And across Europe, there is now a growing trend towards introducinghuman rightsand environmentaldue diligence laws. It’s vital that the UK doesn’t fall behind and become a safe haven for irresponsible business.