Business and human rights

A&O Shearman’s business and human rights (BHR) team have been advising clients for more than 20 years.

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We help major multinational organizations to implement the UN Guiding Principles and other social performance standards into their operations, and create human rights policies and compliance systems that address the changing expectations of stakeholders, investors, business partners, courts and regulators.

Advice on business and human rights compliance and monitoring

Our team advises on effective governance practices and structures, including the use of corporate culture as a risk management tool. We support our clients to set appropriate human rights performance targets, develop monitoring systems, and manage their disclosure requirements.

Sophisticated support on litigation and investigations

Our disputes team represents clients in civil, criminal and administrative cases in state courts and before OECD National Contact Points.

We have market-leading expertise in public international law, and commercial and investor state arbitrations involving BHR issues, counseling businesses, their boards and senior executives on related internal and external investigations.

We leverage our BHR expertise to support our clients with human rights due diligence across their supply chains – including in the context of M&A transactions – and also advise on the implementation of operational level grievance mechanisms and whistleblowing procedures.

Representative matters

  • A discount fashion brand regarding risks associated with suppliers in countries with a high incidence of modern slavery, unsafe working conditions and low wages. 
  • A FTSE 100 multinational with a complex food processing and retail supply chain, on developments in BHR-related regulation and transnational tort litigation, and risk mitigation measures regarding its suppliers and overseas operations. 
  • Financial services and corporate clients on their obligations to report on human rights issues under the U.K. Modern Slavery Act, and related due diligence exercises in respect of their supply chains and their own business activities, and drafting their Modern Slavery Statements. 
  • A range of companies in relation to their non-financial reporting requirements under the Listing Rules and the U.K. Companies Act, particularly in relation to human rights, environmental and carbon emissions.
  • A global energy company in the context of a litigation relating to the French duty of vigilance legislation brought against it before the Paris Courts by a coalition of 22 NGOs and local authorities.
  • A development finance institution in relation to threatened litigation concerning a major investment in an African jurisdiction, alleging insufficient due diligence under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and a failure to take into account allegations of human rights abuses in that jurisdiction.
  • Numerous financial institutions on major infrastructure and energy projects in Africa and Latin America, regarding the application of the Equator Principles, IFC Environmental and Social Performance Standards and UN Guiding Principles on BHR.

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