G20 2017 Declaration: Key points on corporate accountability and labour rights

The G20 has endorsed a set of High Level Principles on the Liability of Legal Persons for Corruption and committed to ensuring that companies benefitting from corruption can be held liable.

The Principles, annexed to the 2017 Leader’s Declaration note a number of rationales for ensuring liability of corporations and other legal entities, including the driving role of corporations in national and international economies and the difficulty of identifying and/or prosecuting responsible individuals. The G20 agreed to develop the Principles in its October 2016 Anti-Corruption Implementation Plan.

Recognising that ‘Perpetrators and instigators may attempt to hide behind the corporate veil to evade liability’ and that ensuring a legal person as well as culpable individuals can be held liable can have an important deterrent effect, the Principles set out that countries should have clear legislation on the liability of legal persons that captures all entities with legal rights and obligations. Liability of legal persons should not be limited to cases where the offence was committed by a senior manager and companies should not be able to escape liability by altering their corporate identity.

The Declaration also restates existing commitments to labour, human rights, social and environmental standards, and frameworks including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. It reiterates support for access to remedy and non-judicial grievance mechanisms, such as the National Contact Points for the OECD Guidelines (NCPs).

The statement underlines the responsibility of businesses to exercise due diligence and says that the G20 will take ‘immediate and effective measures’ to eliminate child labour by 2025, forced labour, human trafficking and all forms of modern slavery.

Crucially, the statement recognises that ‘fair and decent wages as well as social dialogue’ are key components of sustainable and inclusive global supply chains and says that G20 members will encourage multinational companies to conclude international framework agreements as appropriate.