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Business and Human Rights: Global Developments

May 29, 2020, Covington Alert

In this update, we provide an overview of a number of recent international developments in the area of business and human rights ("BHR"). While public policy and corporate agendas have slowed in the past several months as a result of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been recent indications that key stakeholders—including governments, multinational corporations, and non-governmental organizations ("NGOs")—are now resuming their collective focus on BHR issues, with perhaps an even heightened awareness of the importance of protecting and promoting core human rights and strengthening the resilience and sustainability of global supply chains. These recent legislative, judicial, and regulatory developments, which are detailed below, reflect the growing legal and reputational pressures on commercial organizations to take steps to effectively identify and mitigate negative human rights impacts of their global operations and supply chains.

Since our last "global developments" alert, several European states and the European Union have advanced efforts to introduce transparency or mandatory human rights due diligence ("HRDD") requirements. In addition, human rights claims relating to the global operations of multinational corporations have progressed in the courts of several jurisdictions, premised on a range of novel legal grounds. We are also seeing increased regulatory enforcement actions that have a direct linkage to human rights issues, particularly in the United States.

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