Editor’s note: Imke B.L.H. van Gardingen (LLM Int. and EU labour
law, MA Korean Studies) is a policy advisor on labour migration at the Dutch
Federation of Trade Unions (FNV) and a researcher on DPRK overseas labour.
On November 8, 2018 a North Korean
overseas worker who had worked in slave like conditions for a Polish shipyard,
a supplier of a Dutch shipbuilding company, has filed a criminal complaint
against the Dutch firm. The Dutch Penal Code, article 273f(6), includes a
provision criminalizing the act of ‘profiting’ from labour exploitation,
targeting not the direct perpetrators in the labour exploitation, but the ones
profiting from this exploitation. This is a unique case that aims to hold the
company at the top of the chain accountable for modern slavery in its supply
chain. A chain that in the case of shipbuilding is rather short; the buyer
subcontracts the core business of building the complete hull under detailed
instructions cheaply abroad. More...
Editor’s note: Daniel Iglesias Márquez is an external researcher in Business and Human
Rights at the Tarragona Centre for Environmental Law Studies. He holds a PhD from
the Rovira Virgili University in Tarragona (Spain). Other main fields of
interest include International Environmental Law, International Criminal Law
and European law.
The EU and its Member States have largely endorsed
the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human
in their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy and
have committed to supporting their implementation.[i]
The UNGPs state that companies have a responsibility to respect human rights wherever
they operate. Companies are therefore expected to take proactive steps to ensure
that they do not cause or contribute to human rights abuses within their global
operations and to respond to human rights abuses when they do occur. This implies
establishing due diligence processes to identify, prevent, mitigate and record potential
and actual adverse human rights impacts.
Although the EU has not played a constructive role
at the Geneva negotiations for a UN Treaty
on business and human rights,[ii] some
modest developments in the right direction have been made at the EU level to foster a culture of ‘doing business
right’ among companies in certain industrial
sectors. Put differently, the EU has adopted regulations and directives that implement
Due diligence requirements are the most common way
of ensuring that business behavior meets social expectations. An example of this
is the new EU Conflict Minerals Regulation
which requires EU companies to ensure the responsible sourcing of minerals and metals. This EU law has an extraterritorial reach since
due diligence requirements must be exercised by a company throughout its international
supply chain. However, the Regulation raises a number of challenges ahead that
may affect its purpose and implementation. More...
Editor's Note: Catherine Dunmore is an experienced international lawyer who practised international arbitration for multinational law firms in London and Paris. She recently received her LL.M. from the University of Toronto and her main fields of interest include international criminal law and human rights. Since October 2017, she is part of the team of the Doing Business Right project at the Asser Institute.
The Court of Appeal in London recently handed down its judgment in Dominic Liswaniso Lungowe and Ors. v Vedanta Resources Plc and Konkola Copper Mines Plc  EWCA Civ 1528 (Lungowe v Vedanta) addressing issues of jurisdiction and parent company liability. The judgment runs contrary to the historical legal doctrine that English domiciled parent companies are protected from liability for their foreign subsidiaries’ actions. This decision clarifies the duty of care standard a parent company owes when operating via a subsidiary and opens the gates to other English domiciled companies and their subsidiaries being held accountable for any human rights abuses. More...
Editor's note: Sara Martinetto is a research intern at the T.M.C. Asser Institute. She has recently completed her LLM in Public International Law at the University of Amsterdam. She holds interests in Migration Law, Criminal Law, Human Rights and European Law, with a special focus on their transnational dimension.
In my previous
explained how the negotiations on a prospective Treaty on Business and Human
Rights are going hand-in-hand with the implementation of the United
Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
(UNGPs). The Principles – developed by Professor John Ruggie, and approved by
the UN Human Rights Council in 2011 – have attracted widespread consensus among
both States and corporations. Nowadays, the UNGPs are regarded as crucial to
hold corporations accountable for human rights abuses connected to their
activities. However, the UNGPs are not binding, and they need to be operationalized
in national law, as reaffirmed in Human Right Council Resolution
26/22. To date, National Action Plans
appear as the preferred tool to transpose the Principles into national law. Nevertheless,
their provisions are often of a descriptive nature, resembling more a
declaration of intent rather than an effective implementation of the UNGPs.
Only recently, some States have actually adopted hard law instruments on Business
and Human Rights, and the UK
Modern Slavery Act (2015) is one of them. The Act, aimed at
tackling modern slavery and human trafficking, was sponsored by Theresa May and
Lord Bates in 2014 and came into force on 29 October 2015.
two years from the entry into force of the Act, this post aims at giving a
brief account of what the Modern Slavery Act is and how it has been applied so
far. The main focus will be on Section
54 of the Act (‘Transparency
in the supply chain’), which prescribes a reporting obligation for
The negative impact on human rights of what we wear is not always well-known
to the consumer. Our clothing consumption has increased over five times since
the Nineties. At the same time, the business model of certain fashion brands is too often dependent on widespread human
rights and labour rights violations to be profitable, cheap, and fast. The 2013
tragedy of Rana Plaza, where more than 1100 garment workers died, gives us just
a small hint of the true costs of our clothes and footwear. Efforts by
governments to tame the negative effects of transnational supply chains have
proven difficult due to the extreme delocalisation of production, and the difficulty to even be aware of
a company’s last tier of
suppliers in certain developing countries. More...