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26 Feb 2024

Evie Clarke, Policy and Advocacy Officer at the Corporate Justice Coalition

A corporate accountability law of substance takes the floor – it’s time to ensure U.K. companies finally take responsibility for human rights and environmental abuses

Part I

The ... Commercial Organisations and Public Authorities Duty (Human Rights and Environment) Bill... would address certain shortfalls of existing legislation. It would do so by placing a duty on commercial organisations in all sectors, including the finance sector, as well as public authorities to prevent human rights and environmental harms, so far as is reasonably practicable.

This includes an obligation to conduct and publish human rights and environmental due diligence assessments on their own operations, products, and services, those of their subsidiaries and throughout their value chains with regulatory oversight. In the context of the Bill, value chains is interpreted broadly to include all activities undertaken during the lifecycle of a good or service – both upstream and downstream. 

Part of the due diligence process would include informed, meaningful, and safe engagement with stakeholders...

Crucially, the Bill would create effective enforcement and redress mechanisms. Commercial organisations would face civil and criminal liability if they fail to prevent harm in their value chains....

[Part II: In part I the author backgrounded the proposal for a new UK law to enhance corporate responsibility to respect human rights and the environment and gave a brief overview of the proposed law. In part II the author shows how the proposed law is informed by existing developments but supersedes these in important ways and concludes by discussing support for the law. ]