IBA Business and Human Rights

Thursday 29 February 2024

Business clients are increasingly going to expect their lawyers to understand what human rights risks they might face and how they manage them. Business and human rights issues are not new, but may, in the past, have been framed differently (i.e. as health and safety or labour compliance issues).

In-house lawyers are usually the first port of call for advice relating to business practices and principles, including global soft law standards, such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). In-house lawyers also have an important role in managing the company’s strategic and reputational risks, including human rights risks. A significant knowledge gap has been identified in the legal profession regarding business and human rights.

Objectives of the Legal Policy and Research Unit (LPRU)’s Project:

  • Increase lawyers’ ability to advise businesses to prevent and protect against any adverse impacts on human rights, both domestically and internationally;
  • Educate lawyers on the possible negative impacts on human rights of businesses;
  • Demonstrate thought leadership and provide educational and practical tools to allow businesses to respect human rights whilst maintaining the profitability of the Business; and
  • Engage with external partners (including, international organisations, governments and civil society organisations) to develop and consolidate a global network through which it can achieve positive change.

IBA training initiative for Italian lawyers in business and human rights

These roundtable sessions were hosted in Italian and followed a training session for Italian lawyers. Read more about the training sessions here and about the roundtable sessions here.

Publications and recent initiatives

Updated IBA Guidance Note on Business and Human Rights: The role of lawyers in the changing landscape (German translation)

(Chinese translation)

(French translation)

Novermber 2023

The International Bar Association (IBA) updated its Guidance on Business and Human Rights in November 2023. The updated guidance aims to help lawyers understand and implement evolving regulations and standards regarding human rights and environmental due diligence. This version is translated to German.

Response to the call for input for OHCHR report on the application of the UNGPs in the tech sector

February 2022

On 28 February, the IBA Working Group on Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights submitted its response to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report on the practical application of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) in the tech sector.

Ad Hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence (‘CAHAI’): contributions to the multi-stakeholder consultation on ‘Human Rights Due Diligence for Artificial Intelligence’

May 2021

On 9 May, the IBA Working Group on AI and Human Rights (incorporating members of the IBA Business and Human Rights Committee, the Technology Law Committee, the IBA Legal Policy & Research Unit and Queen Mary University) submitted its response to the Council of Europe Ad Hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence multi-stakeholder consultation.

Consultation response to the EU for the Sustainable Corporate Governance for the European Framework on Mandatory Human Rights and Environment Due Diligence

February 2021

On 8 February, the IBA Legal Policy and Research Unit, together with the Business Human Rights Committee and Change the Law, has submitted a response to the European Commission’s consultation on sustainable corporate governance.

Ad Hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence (‘CAHAI’): contributions to the draft feasibility study on ‘Human Rights Due Diligence for Artificial Intelligence’

September 2020

The IBA Legal Policy & Research Unit (LPRU) and the IBA Business Human Rights Committee have submitted the IBA’s comments to the consultation on 'Human rights Due Diligence for Artificial Intelligence' to the Ad hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence of the Council of Europe.

Digital contact tracing for the Covid-19 epidemic: a business and human rights perspective

June 2020

The IBA LPRU and Business Human Rights Committee published this report exploring mobile phone contact tracing apps in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Covid-19: a business and human rights perspective on digital contact tracing

25 June 2020

Following the publications of Digital contact tracing for the Covid-19 epidemic: a business and human rights perspective, an accompanying webinar explored existing models of contact tracing apps and their potential impact on human rights.

Covid-19, a ‘new normal’ and modern slavery

12 June 2020

The LPRU, Business Human Rights and Immigration and Nationality Committees, Global Employment Institute and Rule of Law Forum held a webinar on the impact of Covid-19 on modern slavery and child labour, and how lawyers can make a difference.

Using arbitration to drive investor accountability for business-related human rights harms

16 April 2020

Sonia Anwar-Ahmed, former intern at the Legal Policy & Research Unit of the International Bar Association, explores the possibility of initiating the alternative dispute resolution mechanism of arbitration to increase investor accountability for business-related human rights abuses.

Consultation response to OHCHR Accountability and Remedy Project III: Enhancing effectiveness of non-State-based grievance mechanisms in cases of business-related human rights abuse

23 January 2020

A written contribution was submitted to the OHCHR on the ARP III consultation. This paper was a joint effort of the IBA LPRU, the Business Human Rights Committee, the Arbitration Committee and the IBA's Human Rights Institute and aims to clarify the view of the legal profession on non-State-based grievance mechanisms for business-related human rights harms.

Guidance Documents

The LPRU’s work on Business and Human Rights has developed the following three guidance documents and two training tools to bridge the knowledge gap and build the capacity of lawyers to advice business in this field.

The Practical Guide is intended to assist internal and external lawyers, who are involved in advising businesses globally, to understand:

  • the core content of the UNGPs based on its framework of three core pillars:
    the state duty to protect human rights;
    the corporate responsibility to respect human rights; and
    the role of both states and companies to enable greater access to effective remedy, judicial and non-judicial, for victims of business-related abuses
  • the relevance of the UNGPs to the advice provided to clients by individual lawyers subject to their unique professional standards and rules (whether they are in-house or external counsel acting in their individual capacity or as members of a law firm); and
  • the potential implications of the UNGPs’ for law firms as business entities with a responsibility also to respect human rights.

The Bar Association Guidance aims to inform bar associations on how they may promote, launch and develop business and human rights initiatives that are relevant to practitioners in their jurisdictions.

The Reference Annex intends to be consistent with the general principles of the Practical Guide and consists of:

  • an in-depth review of the UNGPs;
  • the Interpretive Guide on the Responsibility to Respect prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights; and
  • the extensive literature, ongoing practices and policies of governments, multi-stakeholder institutions, bar associations and companies.

The IBA appreciates the contribution from John F Sherman III, Chair of the Working Group and the key drafter of the Bar Guidance, the Practical Guide and the Reference Annex.

Training Tools


The Handbook is a unique self-learning tool comprised of a collection of educational resources, practical exercises and multimedia to enable lawyers to develop their ability to identify and manage human rights risks.

Training programme for lawyers on business and human rights
Training programme for lawyers on business and human rights

The Training Programme is a course for bar associations, law firms and other legal institutions. Online material combined with a bespoke face-to-face training session will provide legal practitioners with the necessary knowledge to incorporate human rights management into their client-facing work and within their own businesses.

The IBA LPRU would like to thank the following experts in the area of B&HR, who have provided advice to the consultant and to IBA LPRU on the development of the Training Tools: Elodie Aba, Nicole Bigby, Christine Chow, Daniel D’Ambrosio, Dr Mihir Kanade, Sternford Moyo, Andrea Saldarriaga, Abigail McGregor, Paul Redmond and Vanessa Zimmerman.

Training Programmes on Business and Human Rights

In October 2019, the LPRU, in partnership with the National Business Association of Colombia (ANDI) and the Chamber of Commerce of Bogotá hosted a second training programme for lawyers on Business and Human Rights, followed by a roundtable discussion.

The LPRU, in collaboration with The Law Council of Australia, conducted a training programme for lawyers. Two sessions were held in Melbourne and Sydney in May 2018. Please see below some videos of the attendees, providing feedback on the training programme.

The IBA would like to thank The Law Council of Australia (LCA) for its partnership in developing and implementing this training programme.


If you are interested in knowing more about the LPRU’s projects on Business and Human Rights, please contact lpru@int-bar.org or Sara Carnegie, LPRU Director, at sara.carnegie@int-bar.org.

The development of the guidance documents would not have been possible without the work and dedication of Rocío Paniagua, former LPRU Senior Legal Advisor and Gonzalo Guzmán and Jane Ellis, former LPRU Directors.

Image credit - 7 Eleven © Sorbis / Shutterstock, Inc