UK Commission Proposal
The UK is a key player in the global economy and UK based companies can have a positive impact in terms of reducing poverty overseas. However, some UK companies have been involved in human rights abuses and/or significant environmental damage through their overseas operations. Currently there is a lack of both authoritative guidance for companies to avoid such negative impacts, as well as for solutions and accountability when such breaches occur. This void creates greater risk for people, the environment, and businesses — as well as the UK’s reputation as a whole. Better systems need to be introduced to ensure all UK companies respect human rights and protect the environment when operating abroad.
CORE proposes the establishment of a new body in the UK to help guide UK companies towards best practice when operating overseas and prevent harmful impacts to people and the environment. The Commission could also help resolve disputes between companies and those affected by the companies’ activities, promoting solutions when harm had been done. This body would have the effect of reducing violations of environmental and human rights standards related to UK companies’ operations abroad, and help those companies improve their corporate conduct globally.
Key objectives of a UK Commission for Business, Human Rights & The Environment:
- provide redress for overseas victims of human rights abuses involving UK companies
- promote appropriate environmental and human rights standards for UK companies operating overseas and promulgate best practice
- work with other human rights commissions and relevant bodies to share learning and build their collective capacity to strengthen the effectiveness of redress in developing countries
How would it work?
CORE would like to hear ideas as to how you think the Commission could most effectively work. The functions of the Commission could include:
- promote – global and local laws, standards and best practice that are relevant to the human rights and environmental impacts of UK companies wherever they operate
- evaluate – the effectiveness of existing standards, regulations and voluntary principles applicable to the overseas operations of UK companies and, where relevant, recommend regulatory and policy reforms to the UK Government and to business
- receive and investigate – complaints against UK companies relating to their operations abroad
- mediate – between parties to facilitate conflict resolution
- remedy – harm done to people and the environment by UK companies abroad
- sanction – corporations for egregious misconduct which contravenes recognised standards
- collaborate - with relevant actors and bodies based in host countries
- guidance – to government on improving existing law and policy
How would this be different to existing UK bodies?
The Commission would fill gaps in the functions fulfilled by judicial and administrative bodies. It would help rationalise the resources that governmental bodies currently assign to initiatives that are intended to improve the conduct of companies. It would also give business a higher level of certainty and comfort in relation to standards of corporate conduct outside the UK. CORE is confident the creation of a well- resourced Commission would result in a significant reduction in cases of corporate misconduct by UK companies operating abroad and would contribute to the raising of standards of corporate conduct globally.