Or Emet Lecture “THE INCREASING REGULATION OF BUSINESS FOR THEIR HUMAN RIGHTS IMPACTS” Robert McCorquodale
When the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were adopted in 2011, the expectation was that the responsibility of business to respect human rights would largely be a voluntary one, with improvements in business actions occurring due mainly to social and economic pressures. While some businesses have made changes, and some industry associations have encouraged this, there has been an increasing amount of legal regulation of business for their actions which have had adverse human rights impacts.
This regulation has occurred at the international, regional and domestic levels, with changes to the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises, the International Labour Organisation Tripartite Principles and other international documents, which place expectations on states to act in relation to their regulation of business activities impacting on human rights. In the past few years, a number of states, such as Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sierra Leone, the United Kingdom and the United States, have introduced various pieces of legislation or administrative action to place legal obligations on businesses in regard to a range of human rights. The European Union is about to finalise its Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive which would cover a wide range of human rights and environmental matters, and would include within its scope both EU domiciled businesses and businesses domiciled elsewhere and operating in the EU. In addition, a series of cases before the courts, including in Canada, have broadened the possible legal duties and liabilities of businesses in this area.