Apart from the moral factor, there are many reasons why businesses should care about their human rights and environmental due diligence. A major motivating factor is the issue of compliance. Human rights principles are contained in both national and international law, and as noted earlier, there is only a growing body of international legislation which companies will be expected to comply with. Ensuring that business operations are consistent with existing legal principles helps companies avoid legal challenges to their activities. Moreover, as building an effective framework for due diligence takes time to implement, corporations are better off starting as soon as possible, not only so that they are compliant with existing laws, but also so that can more easily adapt to upcoming legislation such as mandatory human rights due diligence. Therefore, it is imperative that businesses take action and are compliant.
Additionally, consumers are increasingly interested in the ethical stance of corporations. This has led to increased consumer awareness of a corporation’s treatment of its workers, the environment and respect of human rights. Several companies have found themselves the targets of campaigns by human rights, labour rights, religious or consumer organizations highlighting allegations of human rights abuses. For example, popular alternative milk brand, Oatly, which has been praised for its green print, is facing major backlash for its ties to the Blackstone Group. This is because of the news that Oatly sold a 10%, $200 million stakes to an investment group led by Blackstone Group, whose chairman is said to be a Trump donor, and who has been accused of contributing to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest through deforestation and the development of a highway to facilitate the farming and export of grain and soybeans. This is particularly interesting and perfectly exemplifies the growing attention consumers pay to brand corporations, as Oatly did not cause or contribute to the environmental violations, but has only entered an agreement with the party at fault.
As seen with the Total case, violating human rights and environmental rights could lead to the alienation of communities. Thereby, possibly resulting in lawsuits which can be both time-consuming and financially draining. Therefore, avoiding human rights and environmental violations will help maintain positive community relations and contribute to a more stable and efficient business environment. Companies need to be especially aware of this following the UK Supreme Court’s decision in Vendanta, where the supreme court held that the English courts had jurisdiction over a claim brought by Zambian farmers against Vedanta Resources PLC, a UK domiciled parent company, for alleged business and human rights violations in Zambia by its Zambian subsidiary.
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