Home Themes Business Human Rights and Sustainability

Business Human Rights and Sustainability

5 December 2018
Claire Huijts
Martijn Scheltema

The world of Business Human Rights is in constant flux. The EU for instance introduced an obligation on 1 January 2017 for large businesses to report on their human rights policies and adopted the EU Conflict Minerals Regulation, which takes effect on 1 January 2021. This has convinced a growing number of boards of directors to place Business Human Rights and Sustainability on the agenda, not only to make sure their own operations are compliant but also to identify the risks in the production chain and make them controllable.

Some industries have more experience than others. The Dutch garment industry already concluded a covenant in 2016, in order to prevent human rights violations as well as to keep ahead of the scandals and reputational damage they entail. Banks, investors and pension funds are also making strides in the areas of Sustainability and Human Rights.

Risk management and legal expertise regarding human rights

Complicated ethical issues, the call for corporate social responsibility, and sustainable trademarks require proper risk management. Knowledge of the law and the various sustainability and human rights rules and guidelines is indispensable in this process. Thanks to our long track record of promoting public interests as a State Advocate, we can boast of a wealth of experience in the areas of sustainability and human rights gained in cases including Urgenda (reduction of CO2 emissions), Srebrenica and Hirsi Ali. We have translated this knowledge and expertise into valuable legal advice for the private market.

Our expertise

Our expertise is unrivalled in this sector due to our broad, international business human rights network. We work together with the American Bar Association, the International Bar Association and Erasmus University Rotterdam, to name a few. We understand that while a code of conduct is an admirable ambition, day-to-day reality along with sometimes complex operational processes and different weighting factors call for smart strategies and pragmatism. Sophisticated contract management and M&A due diligence are just two such instruments.

Achieving your company’s objectives within the Sustainability framework

Our legal know-how will bring your company’s objectives within reach, cultivate the right conditions for corporate social responsibility and help you identify and control the risks of human rights violations. Contracts and legal advice are turned into clever tools to promote your business while striking a healthy balance between people, planet and profit.

The playing field of national and international organisations is becoming more interesting and complex because of continually expanding supply chains, regulators with a watchful eye, as well as new laws and regulations. How to capitalise on opportunities without stumbling over the risks? We would be happy to discuss this with you.


  • "Pels Rijcken has notable experience advising on a number of high-profile environmental disputes and human rights cases." - Chambers Europe, 2024