chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.


How New and Proposed ESG Regulations Together with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights Will Impact Lawyers and the Practice of Law

Steven M. Richman, Jae Sundaram, Elizabeth M Zechenter, and Thomas Andrew O'Keefe

The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights recognize that businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights and play a key role in addressing human rights abuses, including throughout their value chains. In addition, businesses must treat the risk of causing or contributing to gross human rights abuses as a legal compliance issue wherever they operate.

Law firms, as business enterprises, have their own responsibility to respect human rights. In addition, when counseling clients, lawyers have an ethical obligation to provide legal advice that respects human rights.

This program offers attorneys practical pointers on how to avoid running afoul of the Guiding Principles and potentially exposing themselves and their clients to liability from victims of business-related human rights abuses. The program will use the basic human right to health, including access to medications and vaccines, to illustrate the real-world application of obligations arising under the Guiding Principles. While the Guiding Principles may be voluntary, the widespread adoption of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria are compelling businesses to use the Guiding Principles to devise their own mandatory internal human rights due diligence requirements.

There are also efforts at the UN to convert the Guiding Principles into a binding legal treaty as well as regional and national efforts to make them obligatory.