12th UN Forum on Business and Human Rights – Day Two Recap
November 29, 2023
By Claire Kaula
The 12th United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights coincides with the upcoming 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 2023. The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights is an important framework to uphold the Universal Declaration globally. Companies in particular, through their business operations, are in a powerful position to further the rights in the Universal Declaration. Companies can have a powerful positive impact on preventing, mitigating, and addressing adverse human rights impacts, including those connected to climate change, and in protecting human rights defenders. Both panels offer concrete guidance that companies can implement in their operations.
Panel: The Updated OECD Guidelines – A New Roadmap for Tackling Climate Change
Moderator: Michael Addo (Professor of Law, Notre Dame University)
Speakers: Julie Vallat (VP Human Rights, L Oreal), Tihana Bule (Head of Governance and Multilateral Relations, OECD Centre for Responsible Business Conduct, OECD), Felipe Henríquez Palma, (Head, Responsible Business Conduct Division and NCP for the OECD Guidelines, Chile), Laura Dowley (Lawyer, ClientEarth)
The panel opened by acknowledging that the climate crisis is a human rights crisis, with the adverse impacts on people already being seen. The updated OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct now recognize environment impacts to include workers, communities, and society. Three key new additions to the OECD Guidelines highlighted include:
- Requiring companies to establish and implement science-based greenhouse gas reduction plans for scope 1, 2, and 3. Inclusion of scope 3 is especially important as it often has the largest greenhouse gas emissions.
- Emphasizing climate change as an integral part of exercising due diligence.
- Emphasizing the importance of a just transition that includes meaningful stakeholder engagement.
Key Takeaways for Companies:
- Consider utilizing the new OECD Climate chapter to update the company’s climate policies and strategies. This will prepare the company for other new and upcoming due diligence regulations as the Guideline is largely aligned with many regulations.
- Ensure greenhouse gas emission goals are in line with scientific targets and consider scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions.
- Ensure meaningful stakeholder engagement as a part of due diligence and with stakeholders affected by adverse environmental impacts.
Panel: Ensuring Access to Justice: The Essential Role of Human Rights Defenders
Moderator: Fernanda Hopenhaym (Member, UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights)
Speakers: Miriam Miranda (OFRANEH Coordinator), Rommel Loarca (SERJUS Asociación Comunitaria para el Desarrollo), Alice Mogwe, (President, International Federation for Human Rights and Director, DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights), William Anderson (Vice President, Social & Environmental Affairs, adidas), Henri Patrick Tiphagne (Executive Director of People’s Watch), and Annamari Tornikoski (Senior Adviser, Human Rights, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland)
At the start of the panel, human rights defender Miriam Miranda accepted the 2023 Human Rights and Business Award on the behalf of OFRANEH. Powerful remarks were made by human rights defenders Henri Patrick Tiphagne and Rommel Loarca describing their and their fellow human rights defenders’ experiences being excluded from decision-making processes involving corporate operations and facing a wide range of reprisals such as slap suits from companies. They highlight needing to have access to information, a role in the decision-making process, and protections from reprisals. Fernanda Hopenhaym concluded by providing a reminder that human rights defenders can include a wide range of people including, Indigenous Peoples, minority groups, religious groups, legal practitioners, journalists, academics, and any other person working to protect human rights.
Key Takeaways for Companies:
- Implement a human rights defender policy.
- Ensure actions taken by a company align with the rights of human rights defenders and/or the human rights defender policy and does not result in reprisals to human rights defenders.
- Implement recommendations provided in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Guidance on Ensuring Respect for Human Rights Defenders report develop by the United Nations Working Group on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises.
For more information on how to incorporate human rights into your business strategy contact Article One at email@example.com. If you are interested in the full recording of the panels, please access them on the UN website here.