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Article

1 Jul 2022

Author:
Mark Dearn and Ligia Baracat, Corporate Justice Coalition

Comment: Time for the G7 to protect human rights and the environment from corporate abuse

'From leader to laggard? Time for the G7 to protect human rights and the environment from corporate abuse', 1 July 2022

"Despite decades of struggle, progress toward stopping powerful corporations profiting from abuses of human rights has been slow and focused on voluntary action by businesses. 

Cases of human rights and environmental harms at the hands of UK business are extensive, and the relentless emergence of new cases in sectors including agriculture, mining, fashion, technology and energy confirms that voluntary approaches have failed to stop harm, let alone offer remedy and access to justice for the victims.

At the May G7 supply chains conference, countries including the USA, Canada, France, Italy and Germany indicated their shared belief that voluntary approaches alone have not worked. This was a clear indication that governments worldwide are waking up to this fact and are beginning to see the potential of binding obligations on companies and investors as the means to protect and fulfil our shared human rights. 

The 2022 G7 Employment Ministry Communiqué said: “Sustainable value chains are of paramount importance for achieving human rights, decent work for all and protecting the environment”, and that G7 countries play an important role in, “achieving better outcomes for people and planet through a smart mix of mandatory and voluntary measures including legislation, incentives and guidance for business.” (Our emphasis in bold.) 

And now the G7 Leaders’ Communiqué from this week builds on this through its shared commitment to “mandatory measures” to protect rights-holders and “support remedy” in the context of complying with international standards on human rights, labour and the environment: “We will coordinate to maximise the coherent implementation of and compliance with international standards relating to human rights, environment, and labour across global supply chains… We are committed to working towards an international consensus on business and human rights to strengthen compliance with international standards, including through mandatory measures that protect rights-holders, provide for greater multilateral cooperation to address abuses, and support remedy, thus enhancing predictability and certainty for business.” (Our emphasis in bold.)

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Thirty-seven UK human rights and environmental NGOs and trade unions – coming together as the Corporate Justice Coalition – are united in outlining the key principles that must underpin a new UK law. In less than a year, more than 125,000 people have signed a live petition calling for what the Corporate Justice Coalition calls a “Business, Human Rights and Environment Act” to be urgently introduced. 

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In the absence of such a law, the UK will only fall further behind an increasing number of countries around the world willing to match words with actions, and to recognise the new consensus broadly supported by business, the public and civil society groups. 

It’s high time for UK leadership on this critical issue."

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