Buyers told to collaborate on human rights due diligence

18 May 2018

Buyers need to work together when carrying out human rights due diligence to reduce the burden on suppliers, a report has said.

Without effective collaboration between industry peers in aligning purchasing practices around human rights, suppliers may face “unnecessary cost and time burdens” in trying to comply with multiple audits, training or screenings.

The report, Making sense of managing human rights issues in supply chains, published by the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL) and the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, added that although the law around human rights was strengthening, companies still needed to develop non-judicial mechanisms of redress where abuse is found.

Milana Chamberlain, partner at Norton Rose Fulbright, said as global supply chains continue to become more complex, it was vital companies “build a complete picture” of the impact their activities have on human rights, communities and the environment.

“Many companies are only just starting to explore the complexities of such supply chain human rights due diligence. The legal landscape is developing fast, with increasing focus on a company’s control over the human rights impacts of its supply chain,” she said.

The report makes a number of recommendations for businesses that want to improve their due diligence. It suggests those just starting to develop due diligence processes follow the guidance set out by the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights, including an assessment of the actual or potential human rights impact of your supply chain.

Other recommendations include:

  • Creating robust and substantive processes
  • Ensuring senior or board level commitments
  • Making human rights part of the company’s commercial goal
  • Engaging with local stakeholders
  • Taking part in any industry wide initiatives
  • Exploring ways to go past the first tier

Separately, the top UK Top 100 Modern Slavery Influencers was revealed at an event in London on Thursday.

The list of the most influential influencers (which included SM editor Katie Jacobs) is based on their social media interactions, their engagement with policy and public speaking. The actual ranking of the top 100 will not be revealed until an event in September this year.

Speaking at the event, Baroness Lola Young, who has a private member’s bill in parliament seeking to expand the Modern Slavery act, said the level of engagement from individuals, businesses and other organisations on the issue “keeps me going”.

“One of the things that struck me during the course of this work has been how many people are really, genuinely engaged in wanting to do something about this huge problem – genuinely committed to doing something. So when I read about all the doom and gloom in the rest of the news, it’s something that keeps me going,” she said.

“So I’m really glad that we’re able to identify some of those people.”

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