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4 Jul 2021

Haroon Siddique, The Guardian

UK: Rights groups join forces to call for UK corporate accountability laws

BHRRC FTSE100 Modern Slavery briefing

'Rights groups join forces to call for UK corporate accountability laws', 04 July 2021

"Almost 30 organisations have joined forces to call for the UK to follow in the footsteps of its European partners by introducing corporate accountability laws requiring companies to undertake human rights and environmental due diligence across their supply chains.

The groups, including the TUC, Friends of the Earth and Amnesty International, say systemic human rights abuses and environmentally destructive practices are commonplace in the global operations and supply chains of UK businesses, and voluntary approaches to tackle the problem have failed.

Countries such as France, Germany and Norway have already passed laws on supply chain due diligence, while the EU is to introduce obligations on all companies operating in the single market. Those backing a new law say without it UK companies operating in the single market would be obliged to meet such obligations but those outside it would not.

Mark Dearn, the director of the Corporate Justice Coalition, which is backing the call, said: “It’s not possible to ensure respect of human rights without binding laws tackling business abuses of rights – which occur with impunity in the global supply chains of multinational corporations.

“The UK portrays itself as a leader on business and human rights, but this simply isn’t true. There are no UK laws to hold corporations liable for human rights abuses and the Modern Slavery Act doesn’t guarantee that supply chains are free from modern slavery. Meanwhile, countries around Europe are creating new laws that will go far beyond any obligation placed on UK companies.”

The 29 groups backing a new law, which also include Labour Behind the Label, Unison and Christian Aid, say it is vital to ensure the delivery of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals and to meeting G7 commitments to respect human rights. At last month’s G7 summit, hosted by Boris Johnson, the leaders committed “to ensure that global supply chains are free from the use of forced labour”.

A government spokesperson said: “The government is committed to eradicating modern slavery from the global economy and increasing transparency in supply chains, and we will go further than ever before to clamp down on illegal deforestation and protect rainforests, thanks to world-leading new laws being introduced through the landmark environment bill.

“We actively encourage businesses to do their due diligence and identify, prevent and account for potential risks in their operations and throughout their supply chain relationships.”"