Thank you to all those who contacted me to call for a human rights and environmental due diligence law or Business, Human Rights and Environment Act.
The Government has previously said it has no plans to make human rights due diligence mandatory for businesses. It says it expects all businesses in the UK to respect human rights and the environment throughout their operations, in line with the UN Guiding Principles and the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises. It says the Modern Slavery Act requires businesses with a turnover of £36 million or more, to set out the steps they have taken to prevent modern slavery in their operations and supply chains, and that it will introduce financial penalties to increase compliance “when parliamentary time allows”. It further states that it has introduced due diligence legislation through the Environment Act to tackle illegal deforestation in UK supply chains.
However, we need to look at what more we can do to address these issues. For example, we should ensure companies have a duty to eliminate forced labour from supply chains and public services and block the products of modern slavery from reaching our shelves. We should look at expanding on the due diligence provisions in the Environment Act to cover breaches of international agreements on human rights, as well as damaging deforestation more widely. In addition, we should consider the greater use of targeted import bans to prevent the import of goods from targeted locations where there is evidence that they have been manufactured using forced labour.