For further information on the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights please visit https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Forum/Pages/2019ForumBHR.aspx

For further information on the work of the Working Group on Business and Human Rights please visit https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/WGHRandtransnationalcorporationsandotherbusiness.aspx 
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Tuesday, November 26 • 09:00 - 10:15
Addressing environmental harms – the business and human rights connection

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Session organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Office of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment

Interpretation in English and Spanish provided by DOCIP and in Portuguese to be confirmed.

Session Description
Business operations have an impact on a wide range of human rights related to the environment. While governments should be catalysts for business’ respect for human rights, it is nevertheless crucial for businesses to be aware of environmental human rights when implementing their responsibility to respect under the United Nations Guiding Principles. The role of businesses in respecting and promoting human rights and a healthy environment has never been of more importance. Moreover, there exist meaningful opportunities for businesses to support environmental human rights and rights holders.

The session will provide an opportunity for engagement with Forum participants and stakeholders, including business and private sector actors, to enhance understanding on issues related to environmental human rights and the associated responsibilities of businesses. The session will also discuss some good examples of business practices respecting environmental human rights that promote good environmental governance and the environmental rule of law even when operating in a state that is failing to protect environmental human rights.

The session will consider what kind of guidance tools may be most useful for businesses to enable respect and championing of environmental human rights; as well as existing examples that fully embrace business responsibilities to respect and support environmental human rights.

Session Objectives
To present UNEP’s Environmental Rights Initiative to business and private sector actors as well as other stakeholders and rights-holders and to introduce the Initiative’s work relating to businesses;
  • To enhance the capacity of business and private sector actors to understand and operationalise the linkages between human rights and the environment and the situation of environmental human rights defenders;
  • To consider existing resources and good practices relating to environmental human rights for business and private sector actors, as well as information and materials on environmental rights and EHRDs; and
  • To conduct a basic needs assessment with business and private sector participants, informed by the views of other stakeholders and rights-holders.

Format of the Session
Panel format with three sets of presentations of new ideas, followed by interactive discussion with panelists and participants, moderated by an academic expert.

Background to the Discussion
Environmental degradation, including climate change, undermines the enjoyment of a wide range of human rights such as rights to life, food, housing as well as the right to live in a healthy environment. States have obligations to protect human rights from the environmental harm and businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights. Nonetheless, the relationship between business responsibilities for human rights and the environment is not always very clear. Furthermore, environmental human rights defenders play a critical role in identifying and assessing actual and potential adverse human rights impacts of business activities. However, they are often at heightened risk of attacks and harassments from governments and businesses. Great untapped opportunity exists for businesses and environmental human rights defenders to work together to support rights holders, improve business operations and enhance sustainability.

The session will consider how the business responsibility to respect rights might apply to environmental harms experienced by the most vulnerable. Participants will discuss how international normative shifts, such as the 2030 Agenda, are pushing businesses to pro-actively adopt business models that enable them to contribute positively to long-term sustainability and respect for human rights. The session will discuss how human rights violations arising from environmental change may be considered salient risks that demand a response that aligns with the UN Guiding Principles. As UNEP is considering whether, and if so, how to develop a new tool or tools to help move businesses beyond a culture of compliance to one where environmental rights are meaningfully championed, the event will provide space to discuss the need and potential content of such a tool with participants. This will be achieved through constructive engagement on the needs of business in this area of work, with attention to the views of stakeholders and rights-holders, as well as by considering how any new guidance could and should build on existing tools developed by others in the field.

Please be informed that refreshments will be served before the session
Interpretation provided in English and Portuguese

avatar for Sara Seck

Sara Seck

Associate Professor, Marine & Environmental Law Institute, Dalhousie University


Andrew Slight

Global Public Policy Director, PepsiCo
Andrew has been Director of Global Public Policy since 2013, based in New York. In this role, he leads external engagement with public policy and other stakeholders on a number of issues key to PepsiCo, including human rights and sustainable agriculture. Prior to joining the Global... Read More →
avatar for Indianara Ramires Machado

Indianara Ramires Machado

Guarani Kaiowa indigenous youth representative, AJI (Action Association of Young Indians of Dourados)
Lives in the indigenous land of Dourados in Mato Grosso do Sul Brazil, graduated in nursing from the State University of Mato Grosso do Sul, since 12 years participates in the movement of indigenous youth of Mato Grosso do Sul. She is vice president of AJI - Young Indigenous Youth... Read More →

David Boyd

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment
avatar for Stephanie Venuti

Stephanie Venuti

Asesora de políticas de la OCDE sobre cambio climático y medio ambiente, Organización para la Cooperación y el Desarrollo Económicos(OECD)
Stephanie Venuti es analista de políticas en el Centro de Conducta Empresarial Responsable de la OCDE, donde dirige la participación de países de la OCDE en Japón y Filipinas, y gestiona asociaciones de países en el marco del Programa OCDE-OIT-UE sobre la promoción de cadenas... Read More →

Tuesday November 26, 2019 09:00 - 10:15 CET
Room XIX