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Business and Human Rights Law and Policy - what's in store for 2020?

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Denny Andrew
Andrew Denny



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17 January 2020

The start of a new year is a good time to reflect on developments in global business and human rights (BHR) law and policy. There were significant changes in the relationship between business and society last year. Early signs suggest that the pace of change will pick up this year, particularly with respect to human rights.

We expect some of the new political and investor focus on the treatment of stakeholders (customers, employees, suppliers and communities) to translate into new legislative proposals and an increased willingness by courts around the world to hear human rights related claims against business. The global BHR legal and regulatory landscape is certain to become more complex in 2020.

The fast-evolving environment will create new risks for multinational corporations and financial institutions, and opportunities for those able to adapt before the rest. First movers will be examining their own and their business partners’ adverse impacts on human rights more closely than ever before, and seeking more transparent and innovative ways to avoid or address those impacts.

With business and human rights becoming an increasing priority for policy makers, regulators and investors, we share our thoughts on the ten major BHR trends that we expect will be of concern to the boards and general counsels of many multinational businesses during the year ahead.

In summary, we expect to see:

  1. A greater focus on the treatment of stakeholders
  2. Enhanced corporate disclosure regarding human rights issues
  3. An evolving and uneven legal and regulatory landscape
  4. The EU as the global leader on human rights issues
  5. More claims against multinationals in home country courts
  6. The development of practical and innovative solutions to BHR problems
  7. A turn to alternative dispute resolution processes
  8. Trade and investment law emerging from the shadows
  9. An appreciation of human rights and the environment as intertwined issues
  10. A spotlight on technology and human rights