Business, Human Rights and the Environment
I first worked on business and human rights for Amnesty International UK in 2000 after the organisation expanded its mandate into this area – the same year that Kofi Annan launched the UN Global Compact to unite businesses with the UN for a better world.
Corporations have become increasingly powerful, not least because the UN needs them as a key financial and technical partner in order to fulfill its mandate. The business sector can be a force for ill as well as good, but as non-state actors, the international human rights treaty system is inadequate in terms of enforcing good business practices and penalising bad ones, and Governments remain the main duty bearers.
In 2014, the UN Human Rights Council therefore established an intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, to elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises. The treaty remains in draft form.
A draft UN General Assembly resolution on human rights and climate change (8 July 2021) recognizes that climate change, biodiversity loss and other types of environmental degradation, impact the right to adequate food, and exacerbate disease emergence and increase the impact of pandemics.
Business and human rights spans corporate social responsibility and environmental impacts. We are our environment and our environment is us: what we eat, what we use and discard, how we treat animals and the earth. All have an imprint on us, all imprint the earth. It is time to safeguard the earth as if we were safeguarding our own short life.
Please see examples of Elizabeth’s work and writing on the business, human rights and the environment below:
- June 2022: Nature Rights and Indigenous Rights: New book chapter on how integrated conceptions of earth rights and human rights in indigenous traditions can teach the Global North about true sustainability.
- July 2021 Biodiversity and food systems: Read about the importance of biodiversity being on the business, humanitarian and climate agendas at the UN Food Systems Pre-Summit.
- June 2021 Marketing and Human Rights: Report for Adfree Cities: At What Cost? – The impacts of advertising and consumerism on human, community and planetary well-being. Using international human rights law to frame human and environmental impacts of excessive consumption.
- June 2021 Business and Biodiversity: Interview with the Rainforest Alliance at the Reuters Responsible Business Conference 2021 about the need to transform the relationship between business and biodiversity.
- October 2020 Climate change: Editing and gender inputs for The Climate Crisis: Climate Change Impacts, Trends and Vulnerabilities of Children in Sub-Saharan Africa for UNICEF ESARO.
- March 2018 Food Sustainability: The vegan philosophy: protecting animal welfare, human health and the environment.
- April 2017 Information and communication technology for agriculture (ICT4Ag): Going to scale with ICTs for agriculture, CTA Publishing. Book of 7 case studies on subjects such as geospatial technology and agroclimatic information service for smallholder farmers in Ghana, and satellite-based ICT for improved crop production in the Gezira Irrigation Scheme in Sudan.
- July 2015 Trafficking in the UK: UK Modern Slavery Act 2015: A Summary for Business
- June 2015 Fracking: Writer, contributor and editor of A Guide to Rights-Based Advocacy: International Human Rights Law and Fracking (right). How the international human rights framework can be used to initiate rights-based advocacy against human rights violations that result from the harm caused by hydraulic fracturing (fracking).
- July 2012 Advertising: House of Commons speech on sexualisation in advertising. Sexualisation is a human rights issue. Not the human right you might think of – the right to freedom of expression of advertisers – but rights such as to health, freedom from discrimination, and the right to be free from violence and abuse.
- June 2010 Corporate Paedophilia: Stepping up the fight against childhood sexualisation. Historically New Zealand has been in Australia’s shadow concerning action against the sexualisation of children. However, awareness of the issue in New Zealand has now been intentified, with initiatives by Auckland University and the National Council of Women of New Zealand (NCWNZ).
- December 2006 Indigenous Rights: Maori and human rights in New Zealand. A study by Massey university in January 2006 found that disconnection from Maori culture is a key factor behind the high rates of Maori suicide and attempted suicide in New Zealand. Treaty settlements that have been negotiated so far represent a fraction of the value of the land and resources lost by Maori during the colonial period.
- May 2002 Human Rights and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs): Human rights and the distribution of information. According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), our world is undergoing a technological revolution, perhaps the greatest that humanity has ever experienced. The challenge for the United Nations and other human rights advocates is to ensure this revolution does not just benefit governments and corporations, leaving civil society in the rubble of digital marginalisation and restricted freedoms.