Is the UK living up to its business & human rights commitments?

An agenda for the election, and recommendations for the next government

British companies have a massive impact on human rights around the world. The election is the decisive moment when all parties can demonstrate their commitment to put human rights at the centre of UK business operations.

 

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Press Release

International leadership is sorely needed on business and human rights. The next government has the opportunity to be this leader, but first it must address the shortcomings in its own legislation, regulations, and incentives.

Since 2005, the Resource Centre has contacted companies 2,258 times on allegations of human rights abuse worldwide. 13% of these approaches were made to UK based businesses, 303 in total. The vast majority of these allegations concerned UK companies’ impacts abroad, particularly in the Global South. An analysis of these approaches has exposed some advances, such as the Modern Slavery Act passed on 26th March, but also critical weaknesses in UK Government policy and action on business and human rights.

Peter Frankental, Economic Relations Programme Director, Amnesty International UK said:

“This grounded analysis from the Resource Centre provides a timely reminder of the many challenges that the next UK Government will face in raising standards of conduct of UK companies across their global operations.  The message is clear - when it comes to respecting human rights, businesses need to raise their game and the Government needs to hold them accountable when they don't.”

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has made 13 recommendations for the next government to keep momentum on business and human rights and address the concerns highlighted in the briefing. These recommendations are based on the key findings from our analysis of the approaches we made to UK companies.  The include:

  • The vast majority of approaches we made concerned abuses in the Global South
  • The sector implicated in the most abuses was extractives: 47% of all approaches that we made were to the extractive sector & 40% of these approaches concerned alleged abuses in Africa
  • Labour abuses emerged as the most serious issue for sectors other than extractives; 32% of approaches concerned labour issues
  • Accountability gap: While 13% of responses the Resource Centre sought on allegations of human rights abuses concerned UK companies, analysis for its Corporate Legal Accountability Annual Briefing revealed a relatively small amount of lawsuits (5%) have taken place in the UK.