Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Corporate Social Responsibility at the International Bar Association Annual Meeting in Vancouver, Canada

John Sherman and Craig Phillips, Co-Chairs of the International Bar Association corporate Social Responsibility Committee will be organizing two exciting panels for the annual meeting next month in Vancouver, Canada. 
OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises – what every international lawyer needs to know about possible upcoming changes
Tuesday 5 October, 1500–1800, Room 207, Level 1
Session Chair
John Sherman

Are the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises still relevant to today’s global economy? Do they provide adequate guidance to companies? Does their complaint process work? What are the proposals for their reform? This session will attempt to answer these and other questions.
The Guidelines were last revised in 2001, and cover a wide range of business conduct in such areas as disclosure, employment, environment, anti-corruption, consumer interest, science and technology, competition and taxation. They are now being scrutinised for changes in response to concerns that they are outdated and don’t reflect the concerns of the current global economy in a variety of areas, including human rights, supply chains, distance selling, climate change, and anti-corruption, among others. In addition, National Contact Points (NCPs) – appointed in each OECD country to resolve allegations that companies have violated the Guidelines – have been criticised as underutilised and ineffective.

An IBA Working Group has submitted comments both to the UK NCP and to the OECD to revise the Guidelines and improve the NCP process. Other groups, including business, labour, and civil society, have filed their own comments.

This session presents an invaluable opportunity for international lawyers to learn more about the OECD Guidelines and how any revisions might affect their clients.
For full details click here.
Cowboys from Calgary and Denver – natural resource companies’ corporate and social accountability
Joint session with the Mining Law Committee
Thursday 7 October, 1500–1800, Room 217 & 218, Level 2
Session Co-Chairs
Craig Phillips
Ignacio Randle Estudio Randle, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Vice-Chair, Mining Law Committee; Council Member, Energy, Environment, Natural Resources and Infrastructure Law Section (SEERIL)
The Special Representative to the UN Secretary General for Business and Human Rights characterised the initial operations of North American mining companies in the Andes Region of Latin America as being run ‘by cowboys who thought they’d never left Denver or Calgary’ who ’made a mess of things’ until they were forced to change their practices. The corporate and social accountability of natural resource companies has therefore been under increasing global scrutiny. Some companies have learned the hard way that securing a legal license to operate does not include the social license also necessary to operate. Canada, for example, is engaged in a vibrant and robust national debate on the accountability of Canadian mining companies for their operations in developing countries, whose content has business and legal significance for natural resource companies worldwide. Other extractive industries face similar challenges! , including calls for the creation of an ombudsman office to investigate and assess complaints for violations, the enactment of eligibility criteria for government political and financial support, and the imposition of sanctions, among others. This panel will address these and other related highly timely issues, using the Canadian debate as a starting point.
For full details click here.

In addition to the two sessions that the Committee is sponsoring, you might also be interested in two other sessions that address CSR-related issues.

Model mining development agreement and community concerns
Monday 4 October, 1000–1300, Room 202, Level 2
Joint session of the Mining Law Committee and African Regional Forum
For full details click here.
Environment responsibilities of resource companies under host country and home country laws – the growing demand for extraterritorial liability – case studies and options for reform
Wednesday 6 October, 1000–1800, Room 204, Level 2
Environment, Health and Safety Law Committee session
For full details click here.
IBN social responsibility special edition, August 2010

The Co-Chairs note that, for those of you who have not already seen the August edition of the International Bar News, we strongly encourage you to do so. It’s entitled 'Do the right thing – Social responsibility special edition'. In it, IBA President Fernando Peláez-Pier states that:
Business around the world can have positive and/or negative effects on human rights. The legal profession must assist our clients in being proactive – and not defensive – in taking the necessary steps to avoid the violation of particular rights and to avoid being complicit in human rights abuses. Lawyers have an obligation to assist their clients in supporting and respecting the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights.
The special edition is devoted to themes that are at the heart of the CSR Committee’s values, and reflects much of the Committee’s work. It includes a transcript of the live webcast interview in April of Professor John Ruggie, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Business and Human Rights by John Sherman. It also encourages IBA members to look at an online video series produced for lawyers by the IBA and the UN Global Compact – the world’s largest corporate citizenship initiative – with the generous support of LexisNexis.

Lawyers as Leaders video series

The video series, entitled Lawyers as Leaders: The Essential Role of Legal Counsel in the Corporate Sustainability Agenda, consists of four modules, each dealing with one of the four core themes of the UN Global Compact – human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption. Each module contains interviews with top legal officers of multinational companies and interviews with worldwide experts on the subject matter. President Peláez-Pier strongly recommends that all IBA members watch the videos.

The first video module, on human rights and business, was released in June 2010 at the Global Compact summit meeting in New York. It contains interviews with and comments by Debra Valentine, Group Executive, Legal and External Affairs of Rio Tinto; Mark Nordstrom, Senior Labour & Employment Counsel of General Electric; Professor Ruggie; Georg Kell, the Executive Director of the Global Compact; John Sherman, Navanethem Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; and Caroline Rees, Director of the Governance and Accountability Programme of the CSR Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. The remaining videos will be released in coming months.

On the IBA side, the series was created and produced by CSR Committee member Rachel Nicolson of Allens Arthur Robinson in Melbourne, Australia and John Sherman. Ken Thompson, General Counsel of LexisNexis, who will become CSR Committee Co-Chair in 2011, will be recorded for the forthcoming anti-corruption video.

Corporate catastrophe and Corporate Social Responsibility

The IBA website contains an excellent discussion of the CSR and litigation implications of the tragic Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. One of the core questions arising out of this disaster is how companies can be better prepared to predict and deal with such catastrophes. In a paper linked to the front page of the website entitled Whose risk is it? Viewing corporate catastrophe through a human rights lens, John Sherman argues that viewing the probability of a disaster through the eyes of potential victims external to the company will improve the company’s ability to predict, prevent, and respond to such ‘black swan’ risks!

OECD Guidelines revisions

The Committee has also been deeply involved in forthcoming revisions to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and was requested by the UK Government and the OECD to file comments, which have been widely and favourably regarded as among the most detailed and thoughtful. The comments, filed earlier this year, were the work of a 21-member IBA Working Group chaired by John Sherman and consisting of members from eight IBA Committees, over half of whom were CSR Committee members: Kala Anandarajah, Alice de Jonge, Jan Eijsbouts, Jan Handzlik, Thomas Hickey, Tzvi Levinson, Rebecca Fe de Montreve-McMinn, Susan Poffley, Javier Robles, John Southalan, Suzanne Spears, Chief Fassy Adetoukunboh Yusuf and Wayne White.

The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises can be found here.
The OECD Consultation can be found here.
The full IBA WG response can be found here.

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