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Nathan Lankford

Business Human Rights Committee

The objective of the Business Human Rights (BHR) Committee is to create awareness amongst lawyers in all fields of practice, of business and human rights, corporate sustainability, and more broadly ESG (environmental, social and governance, eg, conflict minerals and modern slavery transparency) principles.

About the Committee

Business and human rights issues are not new; but there has been a paradigm shift in the understanding of and approaches to the ways in which business may impact on the human rights of individuals and groups (both positively and negatively), since the endorsement in 2011 of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). This global, authoritative standard provides guidance on governments' duty to protect against human rights harm and business' responsibility to respect human rights, as well as the importance of access to remedy. The UNGPs are increasingly reflected in new laws and regulations, and in business relationships.

These developments raise challenges and opportunities for lawyers, both as advisers to their clients and, in the case of law firms, as enterprises in their own right. The UNGPs' unique approach to due diligence and risk management bring a new perspective to all areas of legal practice, from mergers and acquisitions, to supply chain management, investment and finance, and more. They are relevant for all lawyers, whatever their area of specialisation, be it advisory, transactional, compliance, regulatory enforcement or dispute resolution.

Business and human rights is also a key component of strategies supporting corporate responsibility, ethical business, sustainability and good corporate governance more broadly. The Business Human Rights Committee aims to promote the development of legal skills required to advise clients and to support law firm management in these areas, and to facilitate education and dialogue among lawyers who practice in this emerging area of the law.

Forthcoming conferences and webinars View all conferences and webinars

Legal advisers and the transition to a sustainable economy

One of the many lessons of 2020 will be that a sustainable and inclusive economy – that promotes positive, long-term economic, environmental and social outcomes – requires cooperation, engagement and innovation from all stakeholders. Legal advisers have an important role to play in this economic transition by supporting business decision making to consider longer-term time horizons and the spectrum of environment, social and governance (ESG) issues holistically.

What would the business and human rights approach of a Biden administration look like?

This article considers how business and human rights could be tackled by US presidential candidate Joe Biden if he is elected to office. Specifically, this article focuses on four areas that could impact multinational corporations.

Japan: promoting the respect of human rights by business during the Covid-19 crisis

This article recalls the experience of the Business and Human Rights Lawyers Network in producing a research report on the impact of Covid-19 and guidance for Japanese business, and describes certain challenges that lie ahead for the implementation of this framework in Japan by the government and by companies.

An opinion on the core elements of the proposed EU mHREDD legislation

This article summarises an opinion delivered by Robert McCorquodale and Martijn Scheltema on the core elements of the EU legislation on mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence, in light of announcements on upcoming legislation in this area.

The time has come for a legislative movement for BIC companies in Latin America

This article comments on efforts made in Latin America to advance legislation for benefit and collective interest companies since 2012.

Projects and reports

IBA Guidance for Legal Professionals on UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (October 2014)

The International Bar Association (IBA) Business and Human Rights Working Group has published a draft guidance for bar associations and business lawyers on the implementation of the United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (‘Guiding Principles’) – the first guidance of its kind since the UN Human Rights Council endorsement of the Guiding Principles in 2011.

Subcommittees and other groups

The Business Human Rights Committee also coordinates the activities of the following subcommittees/working groups.

  • Business Human Rights Committee Advisory Board


Lawyers as Leaders

The UN Global Compact and the IBA, supported by Lexis Nexis, have produced three modules for a video training series entitled Lawyers as Leaders: The Essential Role of Legal Counsel in the Corporate Sustainability Agenda.

Watch the business and human rights module

Find out more and watch modules on labour, anti-corruption and the environment

BHR films on company-community dispute resolution

With financial support from the IBA as well as the Government of Norway, the CAO of the World Bank Group, and the Government of Germany, the BHR Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School has produced three films about the mediated resolution of company-community disputes.

The films relate to disputes around a copper mine in Peru, an oil and gas operation in Nigeria, and a hydro-electric power project in the Philippines.

Watch the introductory film