The research for this practice area was carried out by an experienced member of the Global research team, utilising their significant international knowledge and subject area expertise to review submissions provided by the law firms and conduct thorough interviews with major clients and leading lawyers in the market.
This section covers the responsibility bestowed upon large international corporations to carry out their operations in accordance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. There is currently legislation in various countries to reinforce this initiative, including the UK Modern Slavery Act, the French Duty of Vigilance laws, the Australian Modern Slavery Act, and the Dutch Child Labour Due Diligence Law. There are similar laws set to be introduced in Germany, Canada, and many other countries. Under these laws, the parent companies are pressed to conduct due diligence reports of all their subsidiaries, as they are now technically able to be sued in their headquartered country for its actions abroad.
A typical example of a client in this section is a large-scale mining company, with a host of subsidiary companies operating mines in Africa. Should one of these subsidiaries be responsible for an environmental or human rights-related violation, the central question is put forward: does the parent company, typically headquartered elsewhere, have a duty of care for the actions of this indirect subsidiary? The growing answer in the world is that it does.
In 2019, there was a landmark decision in the UK Supreme Court, known simply as Vedanta, in which it was deemed that the multinational parent company did owe a duty of care to the claimants. Advice and litigation support is expected to skyrocket henceforth.
The lawyers ranked in this section are essentially experts in these laws and a wide range of other international human rights guidelines. They typically advise these large, multinational companies on: human rights due diligence-reporting; constructing internal human rights policies and grievance mechanisms to pay victims; responding to allegations and litigation claims; and conducting human rights impact assessments in high-risk countries, to name the main areas.
Their roster of clients does extend beyond mining companies, though those are usually the most affected. Others include corporations in the technology, food production and consumer products sectors - essentially any company big enough to have a complex, international supply chain. The key players in the market are also likely to be close counsel to banks and investors.
This area of law is still very much in its infancy and changing rapidly with each passing year. Therefore, it is still quite important to not only advise clients in this space, but also push for the development of it in more external capacities. Most of the lawyers ranked here have played a very important role in the development of laws and standards, working with government, the UN, and research organisations and NGOs. As such, a highly ranked firm or lawyer is expected to be both a practical business counsel on these issues and a 'thought leader,' who is sought out in non-client capacities.