Business & Human Rights

On March 11, 2021, the Home Office launched an online registry for organisations required to publish annual modern slavery statements under Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (“MSA”).  The launch of the registry makes good on one of a series of commitments made by the UK government in October 2020 to strengthen the transparency in supply chains provision of the MSA, which we discussed in greater detail in a previous blog post (here).

Commercial organisations that carry on all or part of a business in the United Kingdom and have a total annual turnover of £36 million or more currently are required to publish a modern slavery statement reporting on the steps that they have taken during the financial year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking are not taking place in their business or supply chains.

The UK government’s 2020 UK Annual Report on Modern Slavery reported that 17 percent of covered organisations had not published a modern slavery statement and were unlikely to be covered by a group modern slavery statement.  One goal of the new registry is to enable the UK government to more effectively monitor compliance with the reporting obligations imposed by the MSA.


Continue Reading UK Government Acts on Commitment to Tackle Modern Slavery in Supply Chains with Centralised Modern Slavery Statement Registry

On 12 January 2021, UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, announced a package of measures intended to ensure that British organisations in the public and private sector are not complicit in – or profiting from – human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region.

The UK has worked in coordination with the Canadian government on the new measures, which were introduced in response to growing evidence of gross human rights violations, including extra-judicial detention and forced labour, in the Xinjiang region of China.

Announcing the measures in a statement to the House of Commons, the UK foreign Secretary stated that the aim of the measures is to ensure that “no company that profits from forced labour in Xinjiang can do business in the UK, and no UK business is involved in their supply chains.”

The measures reflect a number of recommendations the Conservative Human Rights Commission  made to the UK government in its report on human rights in China, The Darkness Deepens: The Crackdown on Human Rights in China 2016 – 2020, which was published on 13 January 2021. The measures also build on a raft of US actions introduced to combat forced labour in China, which we discussed in greater detail in previous client alerts (here, here, here and here).


Continue Reading UK Government Announces New Measures to Combat Forced Labour and Human Rights Abuses in Xinjiang

The US executive and legislative branches are ratcheting up pressure on companies to address forced labor in their supply chains. The US Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) has in recent months announced a series of Withhold Release Orders (WROs) and a Finding following investigations into forced labor. Additionally, the US

The Trump administration is considering a ban on US imports of Xinjiang-origin cotton and other products due to allegations of widespread forced labor. The scope of the possible restrictions has not been made public but credible reporting suggests that it could include cotton and tomato products from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) or wider

On April 29, 2020, the European Commission announced plans to develop a legislative proposal by 2021 that will require EU companies to conduct mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence on their operations and global supply chains. If passed, the new law would also include provisions for corporate liability with possible sanctions imposed for non-compliance.

The announcement follows the publication of a study conducted for the European Commission which focused on the due diligence requirements to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for abuses of human rights, including the rights of the child and fundamental freedoms, serious bodily injury or health risks, and environmental damage including with respect to climate. The announcement comes as part of wider efforts across the European Union to prevent human rights abuses and protect vulnerable workers.


Continue Reading Client Alert: Calls for European Companies to Focus on Human Rights Abuses in Supply Chain