Lib Dems unveil plans for environmental ‘duty of care’ for UK firms

Businesses would be given a legal “duty of care” on environmental and social issues that could be used to prevent them selling goods from deforested areas and to force companies to investigate their overseas supply chains, under plans set out by the Liberal Democrat party.

The requirement would mean even if British businesses were operating in line with the law in other countries, they could be found liable for environmental harm they or their suppliers caused overseas if it violated UK-defined guidelines.

Jo Swinson, the Lib Dem leader, is to make the pledge in a speech in London on Wednesday morning, signalling her intent to make the environment, along with Brexit, a key priority for the party’s pitch to voters in a general election.

“The Liberal Democrats want to see businesses take greater responsibility for the impact they have on the environment. That is why we want a general duty of care for the environment, to ensure that companies are avoiding behaviour in their operation and supply chains that is damaging to the environment,” she told the Guardian. “[We] have ambitious plans to tackle the climate emergency so that we can look after the planet we have because there is no planet B.”

Under the proposed legislation, companies would be required to exercise due diligence with regard to certain commodities – for instance, products such as palm oil, crops or timber that could come from deforested areas – and to certain behaviours, such as modern slavery or child labour.

The list of criteria would be set out separately, and could be expanded over time. These rules would be valid even if the companies were acting according to the law in the country where deforestation was occurring. If deforestation were set out in the secondary legislation as being something on which there was a requirement to report, then companies would have to report on it regardless of the legality in the country they were doing it.

The proposed legislation would also encourage companies to exercise due diligence with regard to environmental, social and human rights issues in general and would require them to publish reports on the steps they have taken to exercise that due diligence.

Swinson will also attack the government’s record on environmental issues, pointing to a lack of clear policy on how to achieve the net zero target that was enshrined in law under Theresa May, and what she said were failings in climate policy, such as support for fracking and airport expansion, scaling back support for renewables such as solar panels, and the privatisation of the Green Investment Bank. “The Conservatives’ record on the climate crisis is appalling. They have declared an emergency but have done nothing about it. That is like setting off the fire alarm and then standing by as you watch the house burn down,” she said.

For the full article see here: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/oct/23/liberal-democrats-jo-swinson-plans-for-environmental-duty-of-care-for-uk-firms



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