Osborne Clarke Responsible Business Update | July 2019

Written on 22 Jul 2019

Welcome to Responsible Business Update – our new newsletter covering sustainable business and ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) legal and regulatory issues.

Responsible business has moved up the boardroom agenda to become a priority issue. The business case for adopting an effective responsible business strategy is clear. But responsible business is also driving legal and policy developments.

In this edition, we highlight some of the latest regulatory developments in this space. We also look at the challenge of accounting for natural capital in the real estate and infrastructure, and how ESG and diversity is an increasing focus for investors. Finally, we ask whether international arbitration is the future for resolving human rights violations that relate to business activities.

We would love to discuss your business’s approach to meeting these challenges, and how we can help you to fit your responsible business practices in with the legal and regulatory landscape to ensure that your programmes are as efficient and effective as possible.

Please do get in touch with your usual Osborne Clarke contact or any of us listed below.

How responsible business is driving the regulatory agenda, and what’s on the horizon

Much has already been written about the business case for adopting a responsible business strategy. But there is increasingly a legal and regulatory dimension. In this insight, we review the latest law and policy developments in the UK and EU. Where are regulators likely to be turning their attention next and what should you be focussing on now to stay ahead of your competitors?

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What is the relevance of ESG and diversity in investment decisions?

ESG has become a focus area for investors and so we were pleased to explore what that means with Foresight Group – a leading independent investment manager with more than £4 billion under management invested around the world. Elena Palasmith from Foresight Group and Matthew Lewis from Osborne Clarke discussed how Foresight are incorporating ESG into their investment decision-making, what Foresight see for ESG in 2020 and beyond, and what interaction Foresight are having with their investor clients around ESG.

Watch the video >

Accounting for natural capital | What does it mean for the real estate and infrastructure sector?

Do you know the value of your business’s natural capital – natural assets and resources such as fossil fuels, arable land, air and water quality, living things and the ecological systems needed to support them? Natural capital accounting is part of the UK government’s 25 Year Environment Plan. And is likely to become incorporated into the Biodiversity Net Gain scheme under the Environment Bill expected to be enacted once the UK leaves the EU. But how do you ensure that accounting for natural capital is a net benefit for your business?

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Business and human rights | Is international arbitration the future?

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights provide guidelines for States and companies to prevent, address and remedy human rights abuses committed in business operations. They have been widely endorsed and underpin national legislation such as the UK’s Bribery Act and Modern Slavery Act.

The Guiding Principles are based on three pillars: the State duty to protect human rights; the corporate responsibility to respect human rights; and the need for access to an effective remedy. The last of these has always been problematic, especially for trans-national disputes.

Since arbitration is already a proven forum for settling business human rights disputes – for example under the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, which was set up in response to the Rana Plaza factory and counts most high street fashion brands as signatories – could the new draft Hague Rules on Business and Human Rights Arbitration plug this gap?

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