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Press Release

21 Sep 2022

New digital hub spotlights human rights and environmental abuses linked to UK companies

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A new digital hub for information on human rights abuses linked to UK companies was launched today (21 September 2022), demonstrating the harm being caused to people and the planet by UK business operations. Using research conducted by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre and partners, the hub presents an overwhelming case for the UK Government to close the legislative gap which allows human rights-abusing companies to evade liability.

Information already available on the hub shows UK companies are consistently linked to human rights and environmental abuses both in the UK, as well as in their operations around the globe. Between 2015 and July 2022, 129 attacks on human rights defenders were connected to UK business activities. One in five of those attacks resulted in HRDs being killed, with the three most common countries for UK-linked attacks on HRDs were Colombia (29), India (23) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (12).

Human rights abuses linked to UK companies have also been found in sectors ranging from mining to agriculture to apparel, proving voluntary approaches to corporate human rights due diligence aren’t working. Although there has been growing momentum for the introduction of mandatory human rights due diligence (mHREDD) legislation in the UK, political will remains lacking. There is an urgent need for the UK Government to bring in a new law which would hold companies liable when they fail to take adequate steps to prevent human rights and environmental abuses in their operations or supply chains.

Tom Wills, Project Manager – Corporate Accountability & Trade, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, said: “When unscrupulous companies cause harm it is workers, communities and ecosystems, often in the Global South, which end up paying the price. Unfortunately, there is ample evidence UK companies and their supply chains are linked to persistent rights abuses across the world and in sectors ranging from mining and agriculture to apparel. The UK Government has been encouraging companies to voluntarily respect human rights and the environment, but the extent of human rights abuse and environmental destruction linked to UK companies suggest these measures simply aren’t working.

“While countries across Europe and beyond are developing corporate accountability laws, the UK is falling behind. We have gathered evidence of UK businesses being linked to attacks against human rights defenders, UK brands being supplied by factories where workers have experienced gender-based violence and wage theft and human rights violations linked to some of the UK’s biggest mining firms. Without action, the UK is at urgent risk of becoming a market for goods tainted with forced labour and environmental destruction. The lack of effective UK legislation also poses problems for UK companies who operate internationally where they will be held to different standards. There is enough evidence to demand an urgent response from the UK Government. It’s time for a due diligence law that would require companies to fulfil their duty to assess, monitor and disclose any human rights risks in their supply chains.”

Explore the hub

The latest facts, statistics and case studies demonstrating the need for a human rights and environmental due diligence law in the UK.

The hub will be updated regularly with the latest information on human rights abuses linked to UK companies and developments on the campaign for a UK mHREDD law. Journalists interested in receiving regular updates can sign up to our press list by emailing [email protected]

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Notes to editors: 

  • The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre is an international NGO that tracks the human rights impacts (positive and negative) of more than 10,000 companies across nearly 200 countries. When an allegation is made against a company, we offer that company the opportunity to respond and present the information in full on our website.
  • Our website also collates allegations of abuse made against UK companies, amplifying the work of journalists, trade unions, workers’ groups and non-governmental organisations.
  • UK mHREDD hub collates the latest updates, statistics and case studies demonstrating the extent to which UK companies and their supply chains are implicated in human rights and environmental abuses.

Media contact: Priyanka Mogul (London-based), Media Officer, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, +44 (0) 7880 956239, [email protected]