environmental protection

The Private Members Bill, if passed, would establish the UK’s first law mandating business due diligence on human rights and the environment.

By Paul A. DaviesMichael D. Green, and James Bee

On 28 November 2023, Baroness Young of Hornsey (Baroness Young) introduced the Commercial Organisations and Public Authorities Duty (Human Rights and Environment) Bill (the Bill) to the UK House of Lords. The Bill seeks to establish the UK’s first law mandating certain companies to conduct human rights and environmental due diligence, and would also introduce an overarching duty for companies to prevent environmental and human rights abuses within their operations and value chains.

The Bill aims to level the playing field among businesses, provide clarity on legal obligations, and enable a greater level of access to justice. It also aims to align UK law with voluntary international standards, such as the United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines, and the International Labour Organization (ILO) Multinational Enterprises Guidelines.

By Paul Davies and Andrew Westgate

China’s State Council released an “Opinion Concerning Establishment of a Long-Term Mechanism for Early-Warning and Monitoring of Environmental and Natural Resources Carrying Capacity,” which will halt major projects in heavily polluted areas, according to a report from the official Xinhua news agency. The opinion also calls for authorities to use a new pollution alert system that tracks areas ranging from “green non-alert zones” that are the least polluted to “red zones”, where environment and natural resource pressures are greatest.

The opinion provides that in “red zone” areas, government authorities will suspend approval for projects. Companies responsible for environmental damage and local officials failing to implement the ban strictly enough will be held accountable, and could even be prosecuted for criminal liability. Conversely, the government may provide a financial reward for “green non-alert zones”.

The initiative is the latest development in China’s environmental crackdown, which has intensified this year, rattling the country’s ports, factories, and commodities markets, in particular. Economic analysts have suggested that China will sacrifice 0.2 percentage points in economic growth and approximately 40,000 jobs this year to achieve cleaner air in Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei alone.