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5 May 2022

Owain Johnstone & Olivia Hesketh, Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre

Policy briefing: Effectiveness of mandatory human rights due diligence

There is an ongoing interest from businesses and civil society in the possibilities of mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence (mHREDD) legislation in the UK in light of such laws recently being adopted in France, Germany, and Norway, and proposed, in February 2022, at the European Union level. This Policy Brief considers the existing evidence on the background to these developments and their relevance in relation to the UK modern slavery legal framework. It draws on an evidence review which considered academic literature, as well as reports produced by NGOs, governments, and international organisations.

Key findings

  • There are multiple reports and case studies pointing to how Human Rights Due Diligence (HRDD) can be effective at addressing modern slavery risks in practice, across a range of sectors. Evidence also suggests that there is a low level of voluntary implementation of HRDD by companies in the absence of regulation.
  • [T]he French Duty of Vigilance law [...] is the only one of these laws to have taken effect so far. Around 260 companies are subject to this law, with 70% of companies starting to revise their human rights and environmental risk mapping within the first financial year of the law and 65% of companies with a dedicated human rights impact identification process (up from 30% before the law).
  • There has been extensive pre-legislative investigation into the anticipated impacts of mHREDD laws, including survey evidence reporting the views of businesses and other stakeholders. Reported benefits include; levelling the playing field, improving legal certainty and improving regulatory harmonisation...
  • mHREDD legislation may (depending on design) overlap to some extent with legislation in related areas such as forced labour import bans or supply chain transparency. Further thought needs to be given to how a “smart mix” of these related regulatory tools may appropriately complement one another...