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Business and human rights


As a global law firm, we recognise that our core expertise is central to the development and maintenance of human rights frameworks in civil society.

As a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) we are committed to being a responsible business. As a participant in the UNGC, we explicitly commit to respect internationally recognised human rights, and to ensure that we are not complicit in human rights abuses through our supply chain and stakeholder relationships.

We also commit to issue an annual Communication on Progress, a public disclosure on progress made in implementing the ten principles of the UN Global Compact, and in supporting broader UN development goals.

We provided pro bono legal advice in the development of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which are directly related to the UNGC and provide an authoritative framework for states and businesses in mitigating and minimising the risk of adverse impacts on human rights.

Not only are we working to respect and promote human rights across our network, but we are determined to help our clients do the same. As transparency and non-financial reporting requirements become increasingly important to doing business, we are responding to the need to help our clients identify and manage human rights risks.  With the increasing visibility and urgency of human rights issues around the world, we are extremely proud to be one of the first global law firms to establish a dedicated practice devoted to business and human rights, assisting our clients to consider risk management, due diligence, contracts and other corporate business practices from a human rights perspective.

Stéphane Brabant, Co-Chair of Herbert Smith Freehills Business and Human Rights was also Co-Chair of the IBA Business and Human Rights Working Group that developed a Practical Guide on Business and Human Rights for Business Lawyers.

We are active across a range of pro bono projects with human rights NGOs. In 2015 we set up the Anti-Trafficking Anti-Slavery Group as a way for our lawyers to access pro bono work in the area of human rights. This has led to our lawyers working on numerous projects with Anti-Slavery International, Focus on Labour Exploitation and TrustLaw. Recent projects include:

  • For Anti-Slavery International we undertook two large research matters, one concerning the laws surrounding forced labour in the hospitality sector, the other in relation to human rights disclosures and public procurement within the European Union.
  • Based on research from our lawyers in Beijing, Bangkok, Singapore, Seoul, Tokyo, Jakarta, Hong Kong, London, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney, a new report on transgender rights across 41 jurisdictions in the Asia Pacific region for Kaleidoscope Australia Human Rights Foundation will inform advocacy efforts and policy reform in the region.
  • We have expanded our relationship with Justice Without Borders (JWB), which supports victims of labour exploitation and human trafficking. Since developing a migrant workers’ manual for JWB last year, our Hong Kong and Singapore offices have developed a new program of training, advocacy, research and claim processing to help JWB help their clients seek civil justice. 

Please click to view our Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Statment for 2016 & 2017