Business and Human Rights

Business and Human Rights

Under international law States must respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of people in their jurisdiction. Businesses, in turn, must respect human rights by not infringing them and addressing those adverse impacts on human rights with which they are involved.

Members of Doughty Street often act in claims for remedies of adverse impacts on human rights caused by businesses. We have assisted in major litigation relating to issues such as the dumping of allegedly toxic waste; asbestos related diseases suffered by former employees; alleged complicity in the torture of environmental protestors; oil spills devastating affected communities; and the forcible displacement of villagers from farming land.

We also advise businesses regarding compliance with their human rights obligations and on non-judicial grievance mechanisms. In relation to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, we have advised on issues such as: the human rights impacts of major sporting events (ADHRB v Formula One World Championship Ltd), the environmental and human rights impact of oil and gas facilities (Crude Accountability and others v the KPO Consortium, Kazakhstan), discrimination of foreign seafarers (Hazel D’Silva v Carnival UK Plc) and the provision of security services in conflict environments (LPHR v G4S).

The transparency in supply chain provision under section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, together with associated statutory guidance, entered into force on 30 October 2015 and requires ‘commercial organisations’ to prepare a ‘slavery and human trafficking statement’, which must include the steps they will take to ensure that there is no slavery and human trafficking taking place in its supply chain, or in any part of its own business.

Whilst UK-based companies should be aware of their obligations under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, our view is that due diligence will not be sufficient to stop modern slavery in supply chains. What is required is a multi-stakeholder response, involving companies, unions, NGOs and the State, to ascertain the best way of curtailing these violations. The new law will prompt thorough risk assessment review throughout the supply chains; including forensic investigations of the supply chain tiers deemed to be at high risk of hiding slavery, child and forced labour as well as facilitating human trafficking.

For more information about Doughty Street’s work in this area please see our corporate governance and policy page.