Business and Human Rights and Modern Slavery

Practice Summary

As trade and investment become increasingly global, multi-national corporations and other businesses are having a much greater impact on the lives of the communities in which they or their supply chains operate.  NGOs, socially-conscious investors, governments and the media are all scrutinising business operations more than ever before to ensure that the activities of companies are compliant not only with their national and international legal and regulatory obligations, but are also in line with internationally proclaimed standards such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the OECD Guidelines for Multi-National Enterprises, the Equator Principles, and others. 

 

For over 25 years members of Doughty Street International have been regarded amongst the world’s best known and most highly regarded human rights and civil liberties lawyers.  Our team of specialist, independent lawyers and academics advise individuals, companies, States, international organisations and NGOs on issues at the nexus where human rights “soft law” meets “hard” issues of legal liability, risk and regulatory compliance.  We also offer specialist advice to commercial law firms and auditors who are increasingly being asked to assist clients with this fast-developing and complex area.

 

We also help companies who have a new liability under the UK’s Modern Slavery Act.  We can advise on drafting a s.54 statement, and assist them undertake due diligence to ensure they and their supply chains are compliant with their new statutory obligations.  We also offer assistance with drafting anti-slavery and anti-trafficking policies, and help staff implement them through appropriate training.    

  

Our Business and Human Rights services include:

  • Litigation, mediation and arbitration of disputes where communities have been adversely affected by the environmental and human rights impacts of business. Members of our team have advised in prominent claims raising business and human rights issues around the world. 
  • Advising on the obligations of companies under the UNGPs and the OECD Guidelines, either to clients directly, or via their professional advisers.  We can act as an extension to an in-house team, or have business and human rights projects outsourced to us in their entirety, as well as providing strategic and legal advice.  Recent mandates have included providing a major gold refining company with an independent legal opinion on responsible sourcing, and assessing a policy manual prepared by expert consultants to ensure proposed due diligence on sourcing arrangements for precious metals ore from artisanal miners were compliant with the company’s obligations to protect human rights.
  • We deliver workshops and training courses around the world on how to identify human rights risks and the international human rights standards businesses should meet, both to companies who wish to cascade best practice throughout their management and operational teams, as well as to transactional lawyers and others who have to advise clients on such risks and related issues.
  • Designing, conducting and advising on internal or other investigations. We work with clients who are seeking to uncover the extent of reported human rights violations by employees, suppliers, contractors and business partners, or to assure themselves no such violations are occurring.  Our long experience of human rights law allows us to suggest practical solutions where such issues are identified.  We also assist those who wish to report confidently on such investigations.
  • Advising on human rights due diligence, as well as enhanced due diligence in weak governance zones and high risk regions. We regularly work and gather evidence relevant to business risk in conflict and high risk zones, and throughout the 25 years since our foundation have acquired experience of identifying “red flag” legal issues such as war crimes, corruption and bribery, and excessive use of force by private security providers.
  • Advising on access to remedy (the “Third Pillar” of the UNGPs), as well as offering independent and robust mediation and dispute resolution services in which both communities, indigenous peoples, labour organisations and civil society organisations and companies can have confidence.  We also design and advise on remediation and compensation processes that respect international human rights standards.

 

To achieve a truly deep understanding of business and human rights issues, we can also call upon our strong links with partner organisations who have extensive experience of security, political and social risk, social licence, corporate and environmental responsibility and community engagement.

 

Doughty Street Chambers offers comprehensive, creative and commercial advice from some of the most experienced specialists operating in this developing field.  For more information please speak to Maurice MacSweeney on +44 (0)207 400 8906 or send an e-mail.  

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