Business and human rights—issues for law firms
Business and human rights—issues for law firms

The following Practice Compliance guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Business and human rights—issues for law firms
  • Guidance for the profession
  • How human rights and business issues can affect law firms
  • Dealing with adverse impacts—leverage and influence
  • What law firms can do to manage human rights risks

It is increasingly acknowledged that human rights are not just a concern for nation states and international organisations. Business organisations operate around the world with increasingly complex structures and supply chains. Their operations can have a number of impacts, good and bad, on human rights. This has led to the development of a number of international initiatives aimed at increasing business awareness of, and respect for, human rights, chiefly the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, 2011

As business organisations, law firms have a responsibility to respect human rights as set out in the UNGPs. Implementing the corporate responsibility to respect human rights can, however, be perceived as difficult to balance with lawyer-client relationships.

This Practice Note sets out key issues for law firms when considering their business and human rights responsibilities in relation to their own business and supply chain and issues arising from client relationships. It also offers practical suggestions for implementing human rights policies and procedures within a law firm.

This Practice Note should be read in conjunction with Practice Notes: What business needs to know about human rights and The UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights—practical compliance.

Guidance for the profession

There is a growing body of guidance and discussion papers on business and human rights issues for the legal profession, including:

  1. IBA: Practical Guide on Business and Human Rights for Business Lawyers (IBA Guide), adopted by the IBA Council in May 2016

  2. IBA: Business and Human Rights Guidance for Bar Associations, adopted by the IBA Council in October 2015

  3. Advocates for International Development

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