Five on Friday – Five Recent Developments that We’ve Been Watching Closely - August 2017

by Foley Hoag LLP - Corporate Social Responsibility

Foley Hoag LLP - Corporate Social Responsibility

It’s Friday and time for another overview of developments in the field of business and human rights that we’ve been monitoring.

This week’s post includes: an announcement by the Government of Australia that it will move forward with the development of a new “Modern Slavery Act”; new commitments by five companies to prohibit recruitment fees in their supply chains; and decision by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in a case involving Anvil Mining.

  • On August 1, MSI Integrity and the Duke Human Rights Center at the Kenan Institute for Ethics released a summary report reflecting the findings and content of a new database of multi-stakeholder initiatives (“MSIs”). The report, The New Regulators? Assessing the Landscape of Multi-Stakeholder Initiativesanalyses 45 MSIs, which, as the report notes, set standards for over 9,000 companies on a range of human rights and environmental issues. Over 90% of the MSIs studied are focused on three economic sectors: consumer goods; agriculture, forestry, and fishing; and extractives. One of the key findings from the report is that most MSIs have not yet developed effective mechanisms to meaningfully engage communities impacted by corporate activities in the process of decision-making. The report also raised concerns about the extent to which MSIs have effective accountability mechanisms.
  • On August 9, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (“ICCR”) announced that five companies have agreed to adopt public-facing policies providing that employees, including in their corporate supply chains, should never pay recruitment fees; should be provided with clear written contracts; and should not lose access to their identity documents. The five companies that agreed to make any necessary changes to their supplier codes include Ford, General Motors, Hormel Foods, Marriott Hotels, and Michael Kors. The shareholder engagement effort that led to these commitments reflected the expectations for companies set forth in ICCR’s recent report, Best Practice Guidance on Ethical Recruitment of Migrant Workers, published in May 2017.
  • On August 16, the Government of Australia announced its intent to move forward with the development of a new modern slavery reporting requirement.  The Government released an initial consultation paper  outlining its proposal in order to support a national consultation process on the proposed requirements. The process will be lead by the Attorney-General’s Department. Australia’s proposed requirement would require companies to report against substantially the same criteria as are outlined in the transparency provisions of the U.K. Modern Slavery Act. That said, Australia proposes to create a minimum threshold for reporting whereby companies must report, at a minimum, on the following: their structure, operations, and supply chain; the modern slavery risks in connection with their operations, including their supply chain; their policies and procedures to address modern slavery, and the effectiveness of those procedures; and their due diligence process with regard to modern slavery risks.
  • The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has issued a decision in a long-running case brought against the Democratic Republic of Congo (“DRC”) that also raised specific allegations regarding the conduct of Anvil Mining, a company that operates a copper and silver mine near the town of Kilwa. The decision, which was approved by the African Union’s Executive Council in January, was announced by plaintiffs’ attorneys in early August. The Commission found that the Congolese army was guilty of extrajudicial killings, torture, and other human rights violations in connection with a 2004 military crackdown in Kilwa that resulted in the deaths of over 70 people. Anvil Mining has been accused of providing logistical support to the Congolese army at the time of the crackdown and the Commission’s decision requested that the DRC take measures to prosecute both public authorities and company staff who were involved in the crackdown. The Commission also requested that the DRC to compensate victims in the amount of $2.5 million. The Commission asked the DRC to report within 180 days as to what measures it was taken to implement the stated recommendations.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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