Our activities relating to Business and Human Rights
1 What are Business and Human Rights?
Human rights issues arising from business activities are more well-known than they previously were as they are becoming more and more globalized. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework (hereafter UNGP) was endorsed unanimously by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011. Since that time, UNGP has consisted of three basic principles as outlined below.
The details of UNGP are available here: https://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/files/000062491.pdf
SDGs and ESG are global engagement frameworks relating to Business and Human Rights.
- Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including SDGs comprising a total of 17 goals and 169 targets, in which UNGP is mentioned explicitly.
- Environment/Social/Governance (ESG)
One of the areas that corporations need to tackle as a part of their ESG responsibility are human rights issues arising from business activities.
2 Activities of JFBA
The JFBA has urged the Japanese government to establish a NAP so that human rights issues arising from the business activities of both domestic and global companies could be tackled.
In November 2011, after showing its commitment to NAP, the Japanese Government prepared to release a NAP. As one of the stakeholders, the JFBA has been actively involved in this process, including participating in government organized meetings and publishing statements.
Within the JFBA, the Committee on International Human Rights and the Committee on Legal Practice Issues play a role as the focal point on business and human rights. Meanwhile, the JFBA as an organization has attempted to strengthen relevant activities, in the declaration adopted at the General Meeting in 2019, Business and Human Rights were mentioned as one of the activities to be enhanced in globalization and internationalization.
The activities conducted and planned by Japanese Government
2-1 Publication of statements
・September 15, 2016 Opinion Calling for the Japanese Government to Formulate a National Plan on Business and Human Rights published
・Jully 20, 2017 Opinion regarding the Priorities to be included in National Plan on Business and Human Rights published
・January 16, 2019 Opinion regarding National Plan on Business and Human Rights following the request for opinion by the Japanese Government published
2-2 Organising symposium, seminar and basic lecture
・September 22, 2017
Towards Formulations of National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights
For this conference, Dr. Surya Deva, a member of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights at that time, shared his views on the role of the National Action Plan (NAP) and his expectations for Japan.
Based on the report prepared by attorneys, a panel discussion followed. The panelists were chosen from various backgrounds, namely the public sector, corporations, institutional investors, and civil society organizations.
This conference was co-held by the Tokyo Bar Association, the Daiichi Tokyo Bar Association and the Daini Tokyo Bar Association.
・January 25, 2018
The 94th JFBA International Human Rights Conference, Recent International Trends on Business and Human Rights
The members of the Committee on International Human Rights and the Committee on Legal Practice Issues in JFBA introduced the recent international trends on the topic of business and human rights. Some of the topics covered were as follows; the participant’s report of United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights, which was held in Geneva, 2017, General Comments adopted by the following treaty bodies; Committee on the Rights of the Child and Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the report on the mechanism of remedy.
・May 23, 2018
ESG Seminar Series Ⅰ
The way enterprises tackle environmental and social issues and the role of lawyers. How to materialize the project towards a sustainable society?
Ms. Izumi Sato, a member of the Daiichi Tokyo Bar Association, and Mr. Hidemitsu Sasatani, a counsel of Ito En, Ltd. at that time, were the main lecturers for this conference. Ms. Sato reported that it is important for lawyers to get involved in the issue of business and human rights in the era of financial and securities industries evaluating enterprises based on SDGs. Mr. Sasatani remarked on the significance of Japanese companies to transform their various activities so that they meet the criteria required by SDGs and inform society of those engagements. After the lectures, a panel discussion was held.
・September 5, 2018
ESG Seminar Series Ⅱ
Conversations with lawyers from the International Bar Association (IBA) and former Japanese general counsel “Global Trends of Business & Human Rights and the role of lawyers and in-house counsel in Japan”
In this seminar, a leading member of the IBA project “Business and Human Rights for the Legal Profession”, and a member of the IBA Business and Human Rights Advisory Group, provided an overview of the IBAʼs Bar Association Guidance, Practical Guide, Handbook, and Training Programme, as well as the background of the project. Following the keynote speeches, a panel discussion was held. The panelists exchanged views on how lawyers and in-house counsel in Japan can effectively practice on issues relating to business and human rights.
・September 18, 2018
Towards Formulation of Japan’s National Action Plan, Baseline Study Report Sessions
This session was co-held with the Japan Business Federation, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, the Global Compact Network Japan and Civil Society Platform for Japan’s National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (BHR-NAP Platform). Japanese reports are as follows.
・March 12, 2019
Informal Meeting to clarify the priorities on Japan’s National Action Plan
Ms. Miwa Yamada, representing the Inter-disciplinary Studies Center at the Institute of Developing Economies Japan External Trade Organizations, and Mr. Hidemi Tomita, a member of the Business Policy Forum Japan CSR studying group and a member of the board of Lloyd’s Register Ltd., reported progressive cases of business and human rights in foreign countries and their research. Then, Mr. Masatoshi Sugiura, Director of the Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Division of the Foreign Policy Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, explained the progress of formulating Japan’s National Action Plan (NAP) and stakeholders discussed the process of clarifying the priorities of the NAP.
Distance Learning Material “Basics of Business and Human Rights” In the material, the lecturers explained the background of adopting the guiding principles, the outline of human rights due diligence by referring to specific cases and what to keep in mind in terms of business and human rights when representing clients, whether enterprises or victims. This material was released in February, 2019.
(1) Guidelines published by JFBA
・January 7, 2015 “Guidance on Human Rights Due Diligence”
・August 23, 2018 “Guide on ESG-related Risk Management – for Coordinated Efforts and Dialogue among Companies, Investors, and Financial Institutions”
(2) International Guidelines
OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct
・The IBA Practical Guide on Business and Human Rights for Business Lawyers
・The IBA Business and Human Rights Guidance for Bar Association
・The Reference Annex to the IBA Practical Guide on Business and Human Rights for Business Lawyers
3 References of relevant websites
・ Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan “Business and Human Rights”
・United Nations Information Centres
“Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework(A/HRC/17/31)”
(2) General Comments adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies
・Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
“General comment No.24(2017) on State obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the context of business activities”