Herbert Smith Freehills joins UN Global Compact

Herbert Smith Freehills is pleased to announce today that it has officially joined the United Nations Global Compact, the world's largest global corporate sustainability initiative. This commits Herbert Smith Freehills to supporting and implementing the ten principles of the Global Compact on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption and requires the firm to publish a Communication on Progress every year, which will describe how the firm has sought to implement these principles. 

As part of its commitment to supporting and implementing the ten principles, Herbert Smith Freehills will:

  1. participate and engage with the Global Compact Local Networks in its main countries of operation;
  2. continue with and build on its work supporting NGO's, charities, and developing country governments through its Pro Bono & Citizenship programme; and
  3. take steps to encourage its clients, suppliers, sub-contractors and other business partners to observe standards similar to those of Herbert Smith Freehills.

Sonya Leydecker, Chief Executive Officer said: " We are delighted to become a signatory to the UN Global Compact.  This is a great initiative which has revolutionised the way in which companies conduct their business to act responsibly and keep their commitments to society. Joining reinforces Herbert Smith Freehills' commitment to the ideals underlying the Compact.  The firm will continue to enhance its business practices in line with the Compact and contribute to the broader dialogue to help achieve the UN's goal of global corporate sustainability" 

Launched in 2000, The Global Compact is the world’s largest global corporate sustainability initiative, with over 8,000 companies and 4,000 non-business participants based in over 160 countries. The initiative is a call to companies everywhere to voluntarily align their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption.  To this end, participants across industries are changing the way they operate to implement responsible practices and developing innovative solutions to address poverty and inequality, and support education, health and peace, to name just a few areas.

For more information, please visit https://www.unglobalcompact.org/ or contact Carl Philip Brandgard.

Sonya Leydecker
Sonya Leydecker
Chief Executive Officer
++44 20 7466 2337

The importance of human rights due diligence for businesses: International Criminal Court asked to investigate allegations of land grabbing in Cambodia

On 7 October 2014 a communication was filed with the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) asking the Prosecutor to investigate the alleged commission of crimes against humanity pursuant to a State policy of systematic and widespread ‘land grabbing’ in Cambodia (the “Communication”). The Communication argues that the alleged policy of land grabbing involved crimes of forcible transfer, murder, illegal imprisonment, other inhumane acts and persecution.

The Communication follows recent complaints brought against companies for alleged involvement in illegal land grabs in Cambodia, including via litigation in the English courts and the National Contact Point mechanism established in connection with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. This trend highlights the importance for businesses to conduct thorough due diligence to identify the risk of being involved in or linked to human rights abuses or national or international crimes when investing in or working with suppliers in emerging markets and high risk countries.

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Towards a Treaty on Business and Human Rights?

The Human Rights Council has adopted a resolution establishing a new working group with a mandate to elaborate “an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights”. In this note, we briefly summarise the background to the resolution and its implications for the future of the business and human rights agenda at the UN.

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European Commission publishes employment and recruitment sector guide: Corporate responsibility to respect human rights

The European Commission has published guidance for the employment and recruitment sector on meeting the corporate responsibility to respect human rights under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). The guidance sets out the steps required under the UNGPs to “know and show” a respect for human rights and has translated this into the particular context of employment and recruitment agencies.

The guidance is of relevance not only to employment and recruitment agencies, but to all companies globally, who rely on agencies for the recruitment of direct hire employees or the supply of workers. The sector guide will be particularly relevant for personnel engaged in corporate governance, ethics and compliance or human resources functions, and those whose role includes managing business relationships with employment and recruitment agencies. It is also intended to be helpful to groups who are interested in promoting respect for human rights in this business sector, including trade unions.

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European Commission publishes oil and gas sector guide: corporate responsibility to respect human rights

The European Commission has published guidance for companies in the oil and gas sector on meeting the corporate responsibility to respect human rights under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). The guidance sets out the steps required under the UNGPs to “know and show” a respect for human rights and translates this into the particular context of the oil and gas sector.

The guidance is of relevance to all companies globally in the oil and gas sector. The sector guide will be particularly relevant for personnel engaged in corporate governance and ethics and compliance functions, and whose role includes managing business relationships with contractors, suppliers and joint venture partners. It is also intended to be helpful to groups who are interested in promoting respect for human rights in this business sector, including governments, industry associations, NGOs and trade unions. The guidance builds on a draft published for public consultation in December 2012 (see our e-bulletin on the draft guidance here) and focuses on upstream activities, albeit not exclusively.

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Why IOCs are paying attention to soft law on human rights

Given the increasing importance that multinational corporations attach to human rights obligations, we have published an article entitled ‘Why IOCs are paying attention to soft law on human rights’ in the Herbert Smith Freehills journal, Energy Exchange. Please click here to view the article. It focuses on the oil and gas sector and the soft law obligations which apply to International Oil Companies and the increasing social, political and contractual pressure to observe international standards of best practice, including in relation to human rights. It explains how infringements of soft law often have hard consequences. The article is authored by Stephanie Lomax, an associate in our energy department.

For more information about business and human rights more generally, please see the resources under the Public International Law tab on this blog and contact Matthew Weiniger, Stéfane Brabant, Andrew Cannon or Johanna Hull.

Matthew Weiniger
Matthew Weiniger
Partner
+44 20 7466 2364
Stéphane Brabant
Stéphane Brabant
Partner
+33 1 53 57 78 32
Andrew Cannon
Andrew Cannon
Senior Associate
+44 20 7466 2852
Johanna Hull
Johanna Hull
Associate
+44 20 7466 2986

Equator Principles III released

The Equator Principles Association (EPA) has released the third version of the Equator Principles (EPs) for managing environmental and social risks in financing projects. They are largely the same as the draft EPs released for public consultation in August 2012 (see our e-bulletin here which discusses the draft in detail), but there have been some changes of which lenders and borrowers should be aware, particularly in relation to express exclusions of certain financial instruments from scope, relaxed public disclosure requirements, and human rights due diligence. The new EPs will come into effect on 4 June 2013, but the EPA will allow the previous version of the EPs to be used where the arrangement mandate is signed before the end of 2013.

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Business & Human Rights – EC Draft Guidance for oil & gas sector on implementing the UN Guiding Principles

A draft of the European Commission’s Guidance for the oil and gas sector on implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UN Guiding Principles) has been published for public consultation.

The purpose of the Guidance is to provide practical and useful guidance on the responsibility of oil and gas companies to respect internationally recognised human rights as set out in the UN Guiding Principles.

The Guidance is not intended to be legally binding and aims to be relevant to oil and gas companies’ global operations and not just those within the EU

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UN Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights

The first annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights will be held in Geneva on 4-5 December 2012.  The UN Forum will bring together governments, national human rights institutions, business associations, companies, NGOs and UN bodies to discuss the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. A provisional agenda for the UN Forum can be found at here. Herbert Smith Freehills will be attending the Forum and we will be posting a report on the Forum on this arbitration blog shortly after the event. A webinar discussing recent developments in the field of business and human rights is planned for the New Year.

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