Comment: it's time to end corporate impunity
'It's time to end corporate impunity', 15 December 2021
"Harmful business practices concern us all—whether through climate change, deforestation or modern slavery. While the dumping of sewage in rivers was prominent in recent domestic headlines, most of the damaging impacts of poor UK business practices remain out of sight, hidden in a web of complex global supply chains supporting the British economy.
The UK is a leader in the export of plastic waste, and many of the companies linked to global deforestation can be found on our high streets. A recent criminal trial also highlighted the nexus between British business and some of the millions of people trapped in forced labour worldwide. The case shone a light on an international human trafficking ring, in which hundreds of victims were subjected to labour exploitation. The products they helped to make later entered the supply chains of many of the UK’s largest retailers.
So how should the UK government address this? Some progress has already been made on environmental issues: the government has introduced measures to ban products grown on illegally deforested land and at COP26 a group of countries pledged to end deforestation by 2030. Reporting on climate targets will become mandatory by 2025 and new taxes that target plastic packaging come into force in 2022...
... If the UK is serious about protecting the environment and ending abusive labour practices, it should begin by creating a legal duty for companies based in Britain to conduct environmental and human rights due diligence. Businesses should be given the responsibility of reporting on the environmental and social damage they are contributing to, and instructed to prevent or at least mitigate such harms.
We have to ask businesses to take ownership of their decisions, their relationships and their practices. We can reward responsible business conduct and end impunity by allowing abusive corporate practices to be challenged here in the UK, regardless of where in the world they actually take place..."