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10 Sep 2015

John G. Ruggie, Harvard Univ., former UN Special Representative on business & human rights

Commentary: Ruggie argues law firms are increasingly recognising their role in implementing UN Guiding Principles

"Adding Human Rights Punch to the New Lex Mercatoria: The Impact of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights on Commercial Legal Practice"

Corporate lawyers were closely involved in the shaping of the GPs, and are now involved in their practical implementation. Corporate lawyers were among the most consequential new players brought into the business and human rights debate, due to their access to and influence with the corporate C-Suite...In response, some major law firms have established business and human rights practice groups. Indeed, whether not firms have done so, they are business enterprises within the meaning of the GPs, with their own independent responsibility to respect human rights, subject to their professional responsibilities as organizations of lawyers...how should a lawyer advise a company that expects its suppliers to abide by the GPs?  The details are far beyond the scope of this essay, but some threshold points can be made. It might be tempting simply to negotiate contractual language in the contracts referencing the GPs and provide audit rights to ensure compliance. Requiring a supplier to adhere to human rights standards in a contract, and reserving the right to audit noncompliance are important tools, but they are only part of the solution...