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21 Oct 2021

36 leading businesses, investors, business associations and initiatives operating in the UK

UK businesses call for a new human rights and environmental due diligence law

BHRRC FTSE100 Modern Slavery briefing


"We, the undersigned, as leading businesses, investors, business associations and initiatives operating in the UK, encourage the government to play a positive role in building a more resilient and sustainable postpandemic economy that works for all. To realise this ambition, we call on the government to introduce a new legal requirement for companies and investors to carry out human rights and environmental due diligence. Such a requirement to prevent abuse of human rights and environmental harm in global operations and value chains would deliver on the government's commitments to the levelling up agenda and to the transition to a net zero economy, as well as establishing Global Britain as a leader in setting standards for renewed and sustainable prosperity worldwide...

Mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence legislation has already been introduced, or is under discussion in a number of countries around the world and has gained substantial public support from businesses. The European Commission’s legislative proposal on Sustainable Corporate Governance will be published later this year. We expect that some proposed legislation will apply to UK businesses operating in other jurisdictions.

The Modern Slavery Act established the UK as a pioneer in shaping the standards expected of businesses. The UK Government is also considering limited due diligence requirements for forest risk commodities. However, a more comprehensive approach is urgently needed. The UK now has an opportunity to retain its leading role, rather than following the footsteps of others. Legislation can contribute to a competitive level playing field, increase legal certainty about the standards expected from companies, ensure consequences when responsibilities are not met, promote engagement and impactful actions between supply chain partners and, above all, incentivise impactful and effective action on the ground. UK legislation with clear accountability should harmonise expectations towards companies, irrespective of where they operate; provide access to remedy for victims; and ultimately bring change of the necessary scale and speed to positively contribute to the lives of people and the planet.

We therefore call for the UK government to urgently bring forward ambitious primary legislation to mandate companies to carry out human rights and environmental due diligence. To level the playing field in practice, the requirement needs to be accompanied by consequences that will be strong enough to ensure that businesses that fall within the scope of the legislation carry out HREDD to a high standard and that victims have access to justice..."