Key ESG Developments – March 2022
To celebrate international women’s day, eighty-two civil society organizations addressed a letter to the European Commission, Parliament, and Council urging them to assure an effective and gender-responsive corporate sustainability due diligence legislation
To end the month of International Women’s Day, a group of 82 civil society organisations sent a letter to the European Commission, Parliament, and Council urgent the Euroepan institutions to take this unique opportunity and “fight gender inequality and discrimination in global value chains”. To do so, the organisations presented the following list of needed changes in the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive;
The Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI) and Advancing Land-Based Investment Governance (ALIGN) published two complementary resources (a business guide and a legal primer) on human rights risks to communities linked to wind and solar project deployment
The Columbia Center on Sustainable investment (CCS) and Advancing Land-based Investment Governance (ALIGN) published two key resources on human rights risks to communities linked to wind and solar project development. The first one, a Business Guide, comes in the context of the recent allegations of adverse huma rights impacts in the renewable energy industry and notably linked to the wind and solar sectors. The Guide is inspired by the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights and aims to provide practical recommendations on how to identify, prevent, mitigate, and account for adverse human rights impacts. The second resource, which serves as a companion to the first one, is a legal risk primer, providing general counsels and corporate legal teams of commercial wind and solar companies an overview of the key legal risks arising from community-related human rights impacts.
Resource Centre on Business and Human Rights publishes report of human rights due diligence activities from 93 companies operating in Ukraine and/or Russia
The Resource Centre on Business and Human Rights invited 273 companies operating and investing in Ukraine and/or Russia to answer questions about their HRDD processes. 93 companies responded to the survey. A majority of respondents listed general human rights policies, guidelines, and standards or sent general statements condemning violence, expressing concerns and sharing information about their donations in support of Ukraine, while 31 companies provided full or partial responses to the questions about their HRDD in response to the Russian invasion, including Bosch, Clifford Chance, Credit Suisse, Shell, Siemens, Twitter, Uber, and Unilever.
For example, Shell declared being committed to “stop all spot purchases of Russian crude oil” and “withdraw from its involvement in all Russian hydrocarbons, including crude oil, petroleum products, gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) in a phased manner”, while noting that in the context of its operation in Russia, “…there may be circumstances in which our teams may have no choice but to supply military transport” for example if armed troops demanded fuel or if there was a legal obligation under martial law. Uber had set up a steering committee a few weeks prior to the invasion in order to identify risks, take mitigation action and plan for potential further escalation. In addition, “Uber began regular outreach and consultation with employees, business partners, and both local and national government officials in Ukraine to better understand the fast-evolving situation on the ground in Ukraine and the priority needs of our stakeholders.” The full survey and responses can be accessed here: https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/latest-news/russian-invasion-of-ukraine-what-companies-have-to-say-about-their-human-rights-due-diligence/.
Un global compact network UK made an urgent call on businesses to act in face of the Ukraine crisis, providing guidelines and good practices
The UN Global Compact UK has published an urgent call for business action in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While recognizing that the conflict is causing economic disruption and affecting companies’ activities everywhere due to the increased cost of energy, shipping and certain commodities, the call refers to good practices from companies such as Airbnb, Vodafone, Google; Warner Bros, Disney, Marvel, H&M, Jaguar Land Rover, Ikea, Space X’s Starlink , Predica Group, Grammarly, Lyft and Wix. The guidelines for responsible action can be summarized to four actions:
- Conducting (heightened Human Rights and Environmental Due Diligence)
- Supporting the Flash Appeal for people in Ukraine and the Regional Refugee Response Plan
- Donating to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
- Supporting Ukrainian Businesses and employing Ukrainians workers.
“Cotton campaign” lifted its call for a global boycott of Uzbekistan after a report finding no evidence of central government-imposed forced labour:
On March 2022, the “Cotton Campaign”, a coalition of NGO’s, Trade Unions, Industry representatives and academics, ended its ongoing call for a boycott on Uzbekistan following a report published by Uzbek Forum for Human Rights finding no evidence of government-imposed forced labour in 2021. The campaign, which has been in place since 2011, saw the engagement of 331 international brands and retailers.
The decision was praised by the ILO which has been working with Uzbekistan since 2013 in establishing social dialogue and collective bargaining practices and reforming the agricultural and economic practices in the cotton sector. Patricia Jurewicz, CEO of Responsible Sourcing Network and Co-founder of Cotton Campaign, highlighted that now “it will be up to the individual companies to do their own assessments of risks and make their own policy and sourcing decisions”, as the report still documented on episodes of coercion and interference by local authorities.
Growing number of companies cutting ties with Russia following its invasion of Ukraine
Following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia on the 24th of February 2022, over 300 companies have decided to suspend their operations (in total or in part) in Russia. This includes companies such as McDonald’s, Universal Music Group, PepsiCo, Adidas, Google, Mastercard and Visa, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, etc. Other companies such as Auchan that have so far decided against this measures have been under increased scrutiny and calls for boycotts have been issued. These decisions raise some important questions in terms of Business and Human Rights and require enhanced human rights due diligence process in relation to conflict-affected areas. The BIICL and the BHRRC have published important reflections on the requirements for a responsible exit from Russia. In addition, the Yaroslav Mudryi NLU in collaboration with Polish Institute for Human Rights and Business hosted a webinar on Business conduct in times of war and the Essex Business and Human Rights Project and the Global Business & Human Rights Scholars Association hosted a webinar on Business and Human Rights in Ukraine (the recording is available here). The NOVA BHRE is also launching a new research project on Corporate Due Diligence in Conflict-Affected areas coordinated by Laura Íñigo Álvarez.
Democratic Republic of Congo’s High Court ordered Panda International Congo Engineering to pay full healthcare costs and lost wages to an injured worker of a cobalt mine
In August 2021, a worker at a cobalt & copper mine was injured after a truck engine fell on his hand. Panda International Congo Engineering, the employer, refused to assist the worker with the medical costs, even though the incident occurred at the workplace.
The High Court in Kolwezi, Democratic Republic of Congo, ordered Panda International Congo Engineering is to pay the healthcare costs and lost wages to the injured employee. Despite the Congolese Labour Code stipulating that healthcare costs associated to workplace accidents should be covered by the employer, legal actions are rarely taken by the workers for fear of losing their jobs or for lack of findings. The High Court decision is now an important precedent on the matter and on workers’ rights.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recognised that climate change is a human rights emergency and calling on states to take action to limit the anthropogenic emission of greenhouse gases
The IACHR adopted Resolution No. 3/2021 “Climate Emergency: Scope of Inter-American human rights obligations”. The Commission recalled that ‘climate change directly affects the right to a healthy environment, which has been recognized as an autonomous and justiciable human right by the jurisprudence of the organs of the InterAmerican Human Rights System.’ It also emphasized that climate change is one of the greatest threats to the full enjoyment and exercise of human rights of present and future generations and the health of ecosystems and all species that inhabit the planet.
The Resolution was adopted after the IACHR received a mandate from the General Assembly of the Organization of American States and had as an objective to “systematize the human rights obligations of States in the context of the climate crisis in order for them to make public policy decisions under a rights-based approach”.
Mexican Supreme Court ordered the cancellation of mining concessions in Tecoltemi, ending two decades of community opposition
The Nahua community in Tecoltemi, represented by different organizations, won last month a case against the Secretariat of Economy that put an end to two controversial mining concessions to the Canadian Almaden Minerals. The area was to be exploited for the period of 50 years for its 7 million ounces of gold and 1.4 billion ounces of silver.
The decision was grounded on the lack of consultation with the indigenous community. Indeed, the right of indigenous community to prior consultation is not only an obligation under Convention 169 of the ILO, to which Mexico is a party, and is also entrenched in the country’s constitution.
Authors: Ana Carina Duarte, Rafaela Oliveira and Mariana Ferreira