Putting people and the planet at the core of business

Corporate accountability

Securing legal accountability for corporate wrong-doing

What’s the problem?

Irresponsible UK companies are getting away with seriously harming people and the environment around the world. Many hide behind complex corporate structures to evade responsibility for their risks and impacts. Read our report ‘The Bottom Line’ to find out more.

Self-regulation and voluntary measures are insufficient to address harmful practises. Government must to put in place effective laws and policies to require all companies uphold human rights and environmental standards, and to reduce the barriers to justice for victims of corporate abuse.

What’s CORE doing about it?

We are calling for reforms to hold companies accountable for their abuses.

Human rights due diligence (HRDD) and a duty of care for parent companies

CORE and partners are campaigning to require companies to take action to prevent abuses throughout their domestic and international operations and supply chains, and to hold them to account when they fail to act.

Due diligence is a familiar concept in business. It simply means carrying out checks and taking action to make sure that the company avoids risks, such as financial risks or risks to customers and employees. HRDD is the same process, applied to human rights risks.

We are calling for UK legislation to make HRDD a legal obligation for companies, to prevent them deflecting their responsibilities to protect human rights and the environment.

CORE is also supporting the proposals to develop an  international treaty  on business and human rights. This would create a binding  framework that holds companies responsible for abuses committed under their watch.

Criminal liability for corporations

We are also calling for an overhaul of the UK’s corporate liability regime, to make it easier for companies to be prosecuted for global corruption and human rights abuses.

Under current laws, prosecutors must prove that senior board level executives actively intended misconduct to occur. This is known as the ‘controlling mind’ test and makes it near impossible to prosecute large firms.

In 2015 the Crown Prosecution Service was forced to drop plans to bring corporate charges against News International in the phone-hacking case because it was unable to produce evidence to pass this test.

One option for reform would be to introduce corporate offences of ‘failure to prevent economic crime and human rights abuses, similar to the failure prevent bribery offence created by the Bribery Act 2010. An alternative would be to make companies vicariously liable for these offences.

Both models would place the onus on multinational parent companies to have procedures in place to prevent misconduct occurring.

Key reading

Human rights due diligence

  • Campaign statement (2019) – 25 UK NGOs call for a law on human rights and environmental due diligence in the UK
  • ECCJ’s briefing (2019) on policy and legal developments in the field of mandatory HRDD and parent company liability, which shows the emergent trend towards legislation
  • BHRinlaw, a website developed by CORE, ECCJ, Public Eye and ICAR to document legal and policy developments, with links to campaigns across Europe
  • Tackling Modern Slavery through Human Rights Due Diligence (2017) – a briefing from CORE, Anti-Slavery International, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre and UNICEF

Corporate criminal liability

  • Our amendments (2018) to the Criminal Finances Bill, calling for the introduction of a ‘failure to prevent economic crime’ offence.
  • The evidence (2017) we submitted to the Government’s consultation on economic crime (Government response awaited)

Blogs

Human rights due diligence: progress >>

Parent company liability: significant legal cases >>

Corporate criminal liability: developments >>

 

Read more on UK policy on business and human rights >>