ICC Document & publication

UN treaty on business and human rights: business response to elements for a draft legally binding instrument

In this statement, the international business community explains why it does not support the “elements for a draft legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights” because they represent a big step backwards and they jeopardise the crucial consensus achieved by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).

Respecting and advancing human rights is a priority for the international business community. BIAC, FTA-BSCI, ICC and IOE, which collectively represent millions of companies around the world, have been constructively engaged in the business and human rights agenda for many years. This includes the work of the Intergovernmental Working Group (IGWG).

We submitted written observations on the UN treaty process in June 2015 and September 2016 and we participated in the IGWG’s first two sessions. Ahead of the third session in October 2017:

  • We underscore our opposition to the proposal to impose direct international human rights obligations on transnational corporations (TNCs) and other business enterprises (OBEs), which takes the debate back to the politically-charged era of the UN Norms.
  • We demonstrate that the “elements” are, in fact, focused on TNCs not OBEs, and that seeking to introduce supply chain legal liability on TNCs is a major breach of the UNGPs and risks dampening investment flows to industrialised, emerging and least developed economies
  • We stress that the “elements” break the consensus achieved by the UNGPs and create unnecessary confusion by blurring and re-casting the respective duties and responsibilities of States and business enterprises under the UN three-pillar “Protect, Respect, Remedy” framework
  • We examine the deep flaws in the various proposals on trade and investment, extraterritorial jurisdiction and the reversal of the burden of States and business enterprises under the UN three-pillar “Protect, Respect, Remedy” framework
  • We examine the deep flaws in the various proposals on trade and investment, extraterritorial jurisdiction and the reversal of the burden of proof
  • And we raise a number of questions about the many unclear and vague terms and proposals in the “elements” paper that add to its counterproductive nature.