Five on Friday – Five Recent Developments that We’ve Been Watching Closely

It’s Friday

and time for another overview of developments in the field of business and human rights that we’ve been monitoring.

This week’s post includes: a new report on human rights litigation in U.S. federal courts; new guidelines on the E.U. directive on non-financial reporting; and the release of the U.S. State Department’s 2017 Trafficking in Persons report.

  • On June 8, U.S. Customs and Border Protection published a final rule in the Federal Register amending existing customs regulations in order to to reflect the elimination of the consumptive demand exception, a long-standing loophole in the prohibition against the importation of goods made with forced labor. The exception was eliminated with the passage of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act in February 2016.
  • The Federal Judicial Center, a U.S. federal agency intended to provide education and research support to the U.S. judicial branch, recently published International Human Rights Litigation: A Guide for Judges, a guide for federal judges on the adjudication of civil cases involving claims based in international human rights law. The guide provides guidance on cases brought pursuant to domestic statutes including the Alien Tort Statute, the Torture Victim Protection Act, and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. The guide discusses overarching human rights principles as well as procedural and evidentiary issues that often arise in the context of human rights litigation.
  • On June 26, the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (“EICC”) launched the Responsible Labor Initiative (“RLI”), a multi-industry, multi-stakeholder initiative that will work to ensure that the rights of workers vulnerable to forced labor are respected and promoted. Participants in the RLI will collaborate to enhance corporate due diligence efforts and to promote responsible recruitment practices. Membership is open to companies in all industries.
  • On June 26, the European Commission adopted new guidelines on the disclosure of environmental and social information. The guidelines are intended to assist companies in complying with the E.U. directive 2014/95/EU on non-financial reporting, as adopted in December 2014. Specifically, the stated purpose of the non-binding guidelines is to “help companies disclose high quality, relevant, useful, consistent and more comparable non-financial (environmental, social and governance-related) information in a way that fosters resilient and sustainable growth and employment, and provides transparency to stakeholders.” European companies with over 500 companies will need to begin reporting pursuant to the directive in 2018.
  • On June 27, the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons released the 2017 Trafficking in Persons report, its annual review of the anti-human trafficking efforts of countries around the globe. The report ranks 187 countries on the effectiveness of their efforts to address human trafficking. Countries that received the worst, or Tier 3, rankings include China, Russia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mali. As companies are increasingly being scrutinized with regard to their efforts to address human trafficking in their supply chains, the Trafficking in Persons report has increasing relevance for the private sector.

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