Baroness Young of Hornsey Introduces Groundbreaking Private Member’s Bill in The House of Lords.

Baroness Young of Hornsey Introduces Groundbreaking Private Member’s Bill in The House of Lords.

28 November 2023

London, UK – Today, Baroness Young of Hornsey, a crossbench Peer and leading advocate for new laws to protect people and the planet, will introduce to the House of Lords a proposal for the UK’s first law requiring companies to conduct human rights and environmental due diligence. Businesses, policymakers, civil society, trade unions and the public have been calling for a law requiring companies to consider their impact on people and the planet, and this Bill is a step in the right direction. The UK has been left behind in addressing the negative impact of businesses on human rights and the environment.

The Bill, titled the Commercial Organisations and Public Authorities Duty (Human Rights and Environment) Bill, is being led by Baroness Lola Young of Hornsey, a patron of Anti-Slavery International and a committed advocate for human rights. The 2022 Global Estimates on Modern Slavery estimate that 17.3 million people are in forced labour in the private sector. Nearly nine years on from the Modern Slavery Act (2015), and on the heels of similar provisions introduced abroad, this Bill would address the shortfalls of existing legislation by compelling companies to take meaningful steps to address modern slavery and the risk thereof in their operations and would hold them accountable for their failure to prevent harm.

Key provisions of the Bill include:

  • Compel businesses and other organisations to undertake human rights and environmental due diligence to identify, address, prevent, mitigate and remedy harms in their operations and value chains.
  • Hold companies accountable for a failure to prevent abuses through liability provisions.
  • Help to level the playing field between businesses, bringing them all up to the same standard of practice and providing clarity and certainty on legal obligations.
  • Enable victims of abuses, including modern slavery, to access justice through the courts of the home country of the lead company in a supply chain.

The Bill enters parliament with a wealth of existing support:

  • A pledge supporting a new law in the UK on business, human rights and the environment to protect people and the planet from abuse was signed by 44 MPs and Peers from 7 different parties.
  • A statement in August 2022 saw 38 UK investors representing £4.5 trillion in assets under management calling for such a Bill in the UK.
  • A growing statement now totalling 50 UK businesses and investors, including the British Retail Consortium, John Lewis, Tesco and Aviva, calling for UK human rights due diligence legislation.
  • Evidence of public support with YouGov Polling showing that 4 in 5 of the British public want a law to prevent business human rights and environmental harm.

Baroness Young of Hornsey is positive about the potential impact of the Bill, highlighting its groundbreaking nature for the UK Parliament:

“This Bill marks a significant moment, as it’s the first time Parliament will have a chance to deliberate on a mandatory framework for human rights and environmental due diligence and alleviation of corporate harm. Advocating for this in the UK has been a cause I and many others have championed for years, and I will continue to collaborate closely with NGOs and businesses to understand their perspectives. While other countries are already adopting such laws, the UK is falling behind on business and human rights. It’s time for us to step up and proactively address human rights and environmental concerns in our supply chains.”

Sian Lea, Business and Human Rights Manager at Anti-Slavery International expressed her enthusiasm about the presentation of these principles before Parliament:

“It’s truly exciting to witness these principles being introduced to Parliament. Anti-Slavery International has been advocating for mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence for years, recognising the incredible impact such legislation can have on the millions of people in our global supply chains. We urgently require comprehensive legislation prioritising people and the planet over corporate profit. Those impacted by these harms must have access to justice and remedy. Furthermore, UK businesses navigating increasingly complex legal obligations across different jurisdictions deserve a fair deal, especially as the UK trails behind. It’s time for the UK to reclaim its leadership role and pave the way for a fair and just future.”

Mark Dearn, Director of Corporate Justice Coalition expressed his hope that Baroness Young’s ground-breaking Bill will shift the dial on supply chain regulation:

“The need to bring an end to corporate abuses of human rights and environmental destruction in global supply chains is vital and urgent – and has widespread support in the UK. But while other countries press on with meeting the commitments they’ve made at the United Nations and G7, the UK has shamefully fallen far behind. We hope as many Parliamentarians as possible will get behind this ground-breaking effort from Baroness Young of Hornsey to change the rules on supply chain due diligence.”

Francesca Mangano, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability at TFG shared:

“UK businesses operating in global landscapes often find the need to self-regulate through voluntary initiatives, to fill voids in global governance. We would welcome and advocate for mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence to level the playing field and allow for more robust national regulations.”

Introducing this Private Member’s Bill underscores the growing momentum in parliament, business communities and civil society for new laws to protect people and the planet. Anti-Slavery International urges all members of the House of Lords to support this groundbreaking legislation.


Notes to Editor:

For more information or media inquiries, please contact:

Georgina Russell, Communications Officer at Anti-Slavery International // +44 (0)7789 936 383

About Anti-Slavery International:

Anti-Slavery International is the world’s oldest human rights organisation. We exist to ensure all people, everywhere, are free from slavery. Since 1839, we have challenged slavery in all its forms and helped to make slavery illegal in every nation around the world. Today, we challenge modern forms of slavery wherever they exist by tackling the root causes of slavery and creating lasting freedom for all.

About Corporate Justice Coalition:

Corporate Justice Coalition is the UK’s long-standing corporate accountability network with more than 60 members spanning NGOs, trade unions and law firms.

About Baroness Young of Hornsey:

Baroness Lola Young has contributed to numerous debates, reviews, roundtables and conferences on the subject of modern slavery and transparency in supply chain legislation, and environmental sustainability and due diligence policy development. She has worked with key figures in the fashion, construction and consumer goods industries, as well as with parliamentarians in the UK and internationally.

About the Bill:

This Bill sets the core elements of legislation to place a duty on commercial organisations and public authorities to prevent human rights and environmental harms, including an obligation to conduct and publish human rights and environmental due diligence assessments on their own operations, subsidiaries, and value chains. The Bill makes provisions for civil liability, penalties, and a criminal offence for failures to comply with the duty.

This Bill seeks to ensure, amongst other things:

  • Establishing Legal Safeguards: Making provisions for the prevention of human rights and environmental harms within the operations of commercial organisations and public authorities and throughout their value chains, and enforcing the corporate responsibility to respect human rights,
  • Enhancing Corporate Accountability: Holding commercial organisations accountable for a failure to prevent harm through liability provisions and assisting victims in having clarity about their access to justice and remedy in the United Kingdom (“UK”),
  • Alignment with International Standards: Bringing the UK law more into line with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (“UNGPs”), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct (“OECD Guidelines”), and the International Labour Organization (“ILO”) Multinational Enterprises Guidelines.

Policy Background

There has been growing support from policymakers, businesses, investors, and the public for legislation that holds businesses accountable for respecting human rights and environmental standards in their value chains. Many countries, including the EU, are already taking action to incorporate human rights and environmental due diligence into their legal frameworks, which will have an impact on UK business. To maintain a level playing field for UK businesses globally, the UK must keep pace with these international developments.

Establishing a duty to prevent human rights and environmental abuses was recommended by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its report named Human Rights and Business 2017: Promoting Responsibility and Ensuring Accountability.” Several companies also indicated they would prefer clear legal guidance to operate in a more transparent market with best practices.

Additional Resources:

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