On 22 October 2014, the International Bar Association (“IBA”) issued draft guidance for legal professionals on the implementation of the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (the “Guiding Principles”). The IBA publication offers separate guidance both to bar associations and to business lawyers practising as in- house counsel and in law firms, as to the implications of the Guiding Principles in legal practice.

The IBA Guidance for bar associations focuses on how to improve understanding of the relevance and applicability of business and human rights principles, provide comprehensive training and education, and integrate the Guiding Principles into the practice of law.

The IBA Guidance for in-house counsel and practitioners in law firms similarly encourages greater understanding of the  Guiding Principles, and also explores ways in which the Guiding Principles may be relevant not only to the advice provided to clients, but also to law firms as business enterprises themselves.

Whilst the Guiding Principles do not themselves impose legal obligations on companies, they are nonetheless of legal and reputational significance, as they are increasingly reflected in national laws, commercial agreements, global business-led initiatives, the advocacy of civil society organisations, and in internal corporate policies. As human rights issues increasingly become a part of mainstream corporate compliance and reporting, businesses are seeking advice on the monitoring and management of potential human rights risks both within their own business operations and in connection with their wider supply chains or other business relationships. The IBA Guidance therefore offers some assistance to the legal profession as to how it can be better prepared to respond to clients’ requests and provide appropriate advice and assistance.

Following the publication of the IBA draft Guidance at the IBA Annual Conference in Tokyo this week, the working draft will now be open to consultation and piloting through to late 2015.

The draft IBA Guidance is available here.

For our previous client updates on business and human rights, click here.