Business & Human Rights

In today’s interconnected world, a company’s approach to human rights can have a dramatic effect on its business activities. Getting this right can reinforce company values, enhance brands and attract new business. However, missteps can damage a company’s reputation, sink shareholder profits and outrage employees. And due to a rapidly increasing set of hard and soft law regulations, human rights violations can lead to legal action and unwanted media attention throughout the world.

Business and Human Rights in the Digital Age

The reputational, financial, and legal hazards once primarily associated with the mistreatment of physical laborers have moved into the digital world. The rise of artificial intelligence, big data, gig workers, facial recognition technology and 5G have given rise to a new set of human rights issues and a corresponding maze of overlapping international regulations.

As one of the world’s most innovative and forward-thinking law firms, Orrick is uniquely positioned to help boards, executives, legal departments, and policy and product teams understand and address this cutting-edge, rapidly-expanding area of law.

Potential Hazards

Business and Human Rights is the intersection between a company’s business activities, its impact on human rights, and its corresponding legal obligations. That can arise in numerous ways, such as the following scenarios:

  • A social media company will face decisions about freedom of expression and hate speech when moderating the content on its platform.  That social media company may also face decisions impacting right to life, freedom from torture, and right to assembly when its platform is used by authoritarian governments.  At the same time, that same company will face decisions related to the privacy of its users’ data.  
  • A consumer electronics company will need to ensure that the companies in its supply chain provide adequate working conditions, pay fair wages, and do not utilize child labor.  That consumer electronics company will also need to ensure that it does not source minerals that fuel and sustain armed conflict to create its products.  If that company also produces AI surveillance technology, it will want to minimize discrimination in its design and privacy violations in its deployment.
  • A company that relies on gig workers will face decisions about how to protect the rights of its workforce—fair and equal pay, freedom of assembly, reasonable working hours—when the laws are behind the times.  That company will also need to ensure that its policies for all workers are non-discriminatory, and provide equal opportunity and equal pay for all, regardless of race, gender, religion, and more.

Orrick’s Services 

  • Advise on the regulatory landscape surrounding emerging human rights trends
  • Draft and revise human rights policies
  • Conduct human rights impact assessments to identify salient human rights issues and to investigate hot button issues or challenging geographical locations
  • Create human rights due diligence processes or incorporate human rights due diligence into existing compliance programs
  • Assist with stakeholder engagement
  • Develop legal, policy, and business strategies to remedy human rights harms
  • Represent clients in litigation and arbitration on human rights issues
  • Advise on novel human rights issues
  • Provide human rights training