A Legal newsflash on business and human rights Webversion
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Business and Human Rights Update
We are witnessing a legal avalanche relating to business and human rights. Our Business and Human Rights Updates will keep you advised of initiatives of relevance to your business. We are also constantly chasing new tools to enable businesses to identify and effectively address potential harm to people and the environment. Ultimately, what protects people (and the planet) is also what best protects businesses.
The GRI launches new reporting standards aligned with authoritative human rights standards | The UN Human Rights Council declares a new human right | The EU Commission releases a helpful new gender equality monitoring tool
  • New GRI Standards are released to align with human rights standards
    On October 5, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), holder of the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting standards, launched its revised Universal Standards along with the first GRI Sector Standard (for oil and gas – with 39 other sector standards to follow) and a new set of GRI Topic Standards. The revised GRI Standards are updated to meet emerging regulatory disclosure requirements, such as the EU Commission’s proposal for a Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (previously discussed in this Update), and to help companies report in line with the UNGPs, OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct, ILO International Labor standards, and ICGN Global Governance Principles.

    A good illustration of how the new GRI Standards align with authoritative human rights and good governance standards is by way of substantially updated definitions of  “material topics” and “stakeholder” compared to the previous GRI Standard (2016 revision):
    • The “Material topics” definition has changed – from a more inward business focused definition – to materiality in terms of the company’s “most significant […] impacts on the economy, environment and people”, including human rights, as a result of the business’ own activities or activities of business relationships (further defined in GRI 1, section 2.1)
    • The “Stakeholder” definition has changed – from entities or individuals who can affect the company’s ability to carry out its business – to “individuals or groups that have interests that are affected or could be affected by an organization’s activities. […]” (further defined in GRI 1, section 2.4)
Companies can choose to report in accordance with the GRI Standards, i.e. on all relevant material topics, or with reference to GRI Standards, i.e. on only selected parts of the GRI Standards and with an overview of which, and an explanation as to why, omissions have been made. The purpose is to help stakeholders understand what companies have omitted to disclose and why.

The GRI Standards are free to download and will apply to information published on or after 1 January 2023, though earlier adoption is encouraged. The GRI Academy offers a new online course to introduce the new GRI Standards. A FAQ also provides a readable overview of the changes made and alignment with the UNGPs. 
  • The UN Human Rights Council has recognised the human right to a healthy environment
    On 8 October, in its resolution 48/13, the UN Human Rights Council unanimously (with abstentions from the Russian Federation, India, China and Japan) resolved to recognise the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, and acknowledged that a healthy environment is critical to the enjoyment of all internationally recognised human rights. While not legally binding, the resolution signals a normative development that may in time affect the scope of companies' human rights due diligence.

  • A new tool mapping gender equality across Europe 
    Companies looking to strengthen and prioritise their gender equality due diligence in Europe will be aided by a short paper and interactive map recently released by the EU Commission. The monitor provides data indicating the level of female achievement, measured as the general level of female achievement compared to the best regional female performance; and gender gaps in terms of female disadvantages compared to men in the same region. The equality monitor will be updated every three years.
If you have questions or want to discuss any of these issues, you can always reach out to your existing contacts at the firm. You are also welcome to contact the members of our Corporate Sustainability and Risk Management team, some of whom are listed at the bottom of this page. 

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Erica Wiking Häger, Partner, erica.wiking.hager@msa.se
Malin Helgesen, Specialist Counsel, malin.helgesen@msa.se
Peter Linderoth, Partner, peter.linderoth@msa.se
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