The UN working group on Business and Human Rights released the UNGPS 10+ Roadmap
On the 29th of November, the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights released the UNGPs 10+ – A Roadmap for the Next Decade of Business and Human Rights. This Roadmap and the Stockholding (document taking stock of the first decade of implementation of the UNGPs) are the results of the Working Group’s UNGPs 10+ Project. The Roadmap follows the Stockholding document, by completing the analysis of the first ten years and making recommendations for the next decade. In particular, the document urges for more coherent action and identifies eight action areas to foster the state and business implementation of the UNGPs: (1) UNGPs as a compass for meeting global challenges, (2) State duty to protect, (3) Business responsibility to respect, (4) access to remedy, (5) stakeholder engagement, (6) leverage to drive faster change, (7) tracking of progress, and (8) international cooperation and implementation support. On each action area the roadmap provides for specific goals to achieve and supporting actions to be taken by States, businesses, and other stakeholders.
The United Kingdom passed the Environmental Bill
Two years after its introduction, the UK Environment Bill received Royal Assent and became law on the 9th of November 2021. The law intends to be the new UK’s framework on environmental protection while providing the Government with powers to establish new legally binding targets on the field. It covers, inter alia, waste and resource efficiency, air quality, water, nature and biodiversity. The new Bill includes the creation of the new post-Brexit watchdog and the new Office for Environmental Protection. It also establishes a “comply or explain” mandate on deforestation for UK companies importing forest-risk commodities. Additionally, it introduces a forthcoming ban on selected single-use plastics.
Business and Human Rights Resource Center (BHRRC) releases the second edition of its renewable energy and HUman Rights Benchmark
The 2021 edition of the Renewable Energy and Human Rights Benchmark was published this November. The benchmark aims to ‘evaluate the human rights policies and practices of 15 of the largest global renewable energy companies’. The report noted some improvement compared to its first edition carried out a year before. However, it affirmed that ‘the overall results remain profoundly concerning, with companies scoring an average of just 28%’ on the benchmark. It also noted that companies scored lowest on benchmark indicators that represent the sector’s most salient human rights risks – land rights, indigenous people’s rights, and protection for human rights defenders’. In this respect, the BHRRC recorded over 200 allegations linked to renewable energy projects in last 10 years, amongst which nearly half (44%) concern the wind and solar sectors. Reported abuses include land and water grabs, violation of rights of indigenous people, and the denial of workers’ right to decent work and a living wage.
World Benchmarking Alliance’s Just Transition Assessment
The World Benchmarking Alliance published the report “Just Transition Assessment 2021: Are high-emitting companies putting people at the heart of decarbonisation?”. The report relies on an assessment of the public disclosures of 100 oil and gas companies, 50 electric utilities and 30 automotive manufactures. The main key findings of the report are as follows:
- The vast majority of high-emitting companies fail to demonstrate efforts towards a just transition;
- People most at risk are being left out of decisions that affect their future;
- Companies must commit to reskilling workers or risk a stranded workforce;
- Businesses still not using their influence to protect people, manage social impacts and advocate for a just transition;
- A just transition needs to be underpinned by companies’ respect for human rights.
New action toolkit centre women in the net-zero economy
Business Fights Poverty and the PwC team implementing the Work and Opportunities for Women (WOW) programme for the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office published the toolkit “Women and the Net Zero Economy: A Transition Toolkit for Businesses with Global Supply Chains”. The work identifies three core ways for companies to have an impact on gender and climate: foster communication between different departments of the company that deal with environmental and social issues; take an holistic view, ’embedding action on gender and climate into core business and supply chains’; collaborate internally and externally.
COP26 of the Paris Agreement
The 26th UN Climate change conference of the Parties took place between the 31st of October and the 13th November. About 151 countries representing 81,2% of the global emissions committed to new climate plans (known as nationally determined contributions, or NDC’s) by 2030. The EU, representing the 27 member-states, reaffirmed its commitment to reduce emissions to at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 and to be “climate neutral” by 2050. Over 100 countries signed up to the Global Methane Pledge, committing to take actions to contribute to a collective effort to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030. Other important developments concern the establishment of rules for a new global carbon market, a new commitment to double funding to help developing countries (despite previous commitment not having been delivered), and a number of side deals on issues of deforestation, international financing of coal projects, eradication of oil and gas exploitation projects. The Glasgow Climate Pact with the formal outcomes of the COP26 here.
The UK Government announced mandatory climate-related disclosure to become law in April 2022
The UK government announced the introduction of a legislation in April 2022 which will require mandatory climate-related disclosure by companies and financial institutions.
43 Investors, Business Associations and Companies issue a statement calling for meaningful and safe stakeholder engagement in the upcoming EU mandatory due diligence legislation
On the 10th of November 43 investors, business associations and individual companies- including Unilever, Aviva Investors, Patagonia, Tchibo and Hewlett Packard Enterprise – issued a joint statement affirming their strong support for mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence (mHREDD) legislation. The statement highlights that ‘mHREDD is key to ensure that efforts by companies that respect people and the planet, both during and post COVID-19, are not undercut by the lack of a uniform standard of conduct applying to all business actors based in the EU or active in the EU market.’ In addition, the statement calls for ‘meaningful engagement with rightsholders and civil society society, including human rights defenders (HRDs)’ and outlines the importance of an inclusive process that is gender-sensitive and intersectional. It also refers to the full respect of the principle and process of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) with regards to Indigenous Peoples.
Commission proposes two regulations on deforestation-free products and waste shipments and the EU soil strategy for 2030
On the 17th of November the Commission proposed three new initiatives on the issues of deforestation, waste management and soils sustainability, all ‘necessary to make the European Green Deal a reality’.The first proposal concerns a new Regulation to curb-EU-driven deforestation and forest degradation. The initiative sets mandatory due diligence for companies placing in the EU market main commodities driving agricultural expansion that leads to deforestation – namely, soy, beef, palm oil, wood, cocoa, coffee and other derived products. Additionally, it provides for a system of benchmarking to assess countries and their level of risk of deforestation and forest degradation driven by the commodities in question. The second proposal concerns a revised Regulation on waste shipments. The text seeks to ‘facilitate intra-EU waste shipments, promote circular economy and tackle the export of illegal waste and waste challenges to third countries‘. It foresees restricting waste exports to non-OECD countries, which will only be allowed if thirds countries are able to manage them sustainably. When exporting to OECD countries, shipments will need to be monitored and may be suspended if they generate serious environmental issues in the country of destination. In any case, all companies exporting waste outside the EU will need to go through an audit and must prove to manage waste in an “environmentally sound manner”. Thirdly, the Commission presented a new EU Soil Strategy for 2030. The proposal sets a framwork with voluntary and legally binding measures for Member States with the aim of increasing soil carbon in agricultural land, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil and entails a commitment to ensure that by “2050 all soil ecosystems are in a healthy condition”.
Authors: Ana Carina Duarte, Rafaela Oliveira and Mariana Ferreira