Human rights abuses have become a pressing concern for companies around the world. Legal and reputational risks surrounding issues such as modern slavery, child labor, environmental impact, security and discrimination have escalated as jurisdictions pass legislation codifying the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), which were adopted in 2011. Companies in industries as diverse as finance, mining and technology are eager to ensure that they, their suppliers and any companies in which they invest are not involved in activities that violate human rights—for legal as well as ethical reasons.
This year, White & Case formalized its commitment to this emerging area of law by establishing a dedicated group that builds on our longstanding subject matter experience. Led by London partner Clare Connellan, the Business & Human Rights interest group provides an important Firm-wide platform for sharing knowledge across practices and jurisdictions. The group’s creation follows related Firm initiatives, including business and human rights training for all of our lawyers in 2016, and the formation of our Responsible Business Working Group in 2017.
Client demand for guidance on multifaceted business and human rights issues coincides with the legal profession’s growing interest in the subject. The American Bar Association endorsed the UNGPs in 2012 and, in 2014, the International Bar Association recommended their endorsement by bar associations globally. Similar guidance came from the Law Society of England and Wales, and from the Law Council of Australia in 2016. The business and human rights landscape has been further transformed by developments including reporting requirements at the operations level and in supply chains, and investor-driven action on human rights issues. Our new Business & Human Rights interest group provides clients with the support they need to thrive in this challenging landscape.
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