Business & human rights and corporate social responsibility (CSR), these are concepts that modern companies can no longer avoid. For years now, businesses are increasingly held accountable for the manner in which they operate in society. This applies not only to the large multinationals: banks, pension funds and other investors receive critical questions about how and where their money is spent. Small and medium-sized companies that operate internationally are similarly faced with these issues. Recent examples are the flower and clothing industry.

The topic also increasingly transcends the ‘classic’ areas of CSR, such as child labor and exploitation. Matters such as environmental damage, corruption, international sanctions and the relation with indigenous peoples are increasingly under the  scrutiny of lawmakers, supervisory authorities and the media.

Aside from this, the scope of corporate social responsibility has also expanded. Not only is the conduct of a company vis-à-vis its own environment examined, the actions of its suppliers and customers elsewhere in the supply chain are also a subject of interest. ‘What is the origin of my raw minerals, and how are my products subsequently used by my customers?’ These are questions that confront contemporary companies more and more.

All in all, these developments are resulting in the expansion of the responsibilities and liabilities of both investors and business enterprises. This can be within the context of civil law liabilities (see also our department of International law & human rights), but the responsibilities and risks for businesses according to criminal law have also increased significantly. In that respect, the Dutch government increasingly acts as catalyst for new laws, also on a European level.  Following political pressure (consider e.g. the clothing industry in Bangladesh), alleged human rights violations are actively dealt with. As a result, the spectrum of administrative and criminal measures through which companies can be prosecuted and sanctioned has grown substantially over the past few years. As such, transnational business enterprises increasingly require specialized legal advice.

Prakken d'Oliveira and Business & Human Rights
The lawyers at Prakken d’Oliveira are focused on the legal aspects of corporate social responsibility. As the sole Dutch firm specialized in human rights, we have ample experience in the area of business & human rights. Notable cases by our firm include a case against Shell for environmental damage in Nigeria, criminal charges against the Rabobank for involvement in money-laundering and a civil law claim against FIFA for its role in the violation of international labor rights in Qatar. We represent both respondents (business enterprises) and victims of human rights violations.

Prakken d’Oliveira also specializes in business & human rights in conflict areas. The risks in conflict areas are always acute and real. The situation on the ground is unsafe and chaotic, and normal government institutions often no longer function. This requires a specialized approach, that will often deviate from the ‘standard’ legal services offered in peacetime situations. In those cases, our experience with international as well as local investigations has great added value. We take the matter further than other firms. We have a broad international network that helps us assess the situation on the ground and obtain advice on local laws. Our specialist solutions and significant expertise in the areas of international law and the laws of war allow us to offer a unique services.

Apart from this, we also draw on our extensive experience in the advisory practice with regard to (international) sanctions. This knowledge helps us e.g. to advise companies that wish to expand their operations to new (high risk) countries, or who are suddenly confronted with a changing political reality in the countries in which they operate. As an example, sanctions that are imposed on one or more conflicting parties can have a direct influence on business opportunities.  Our firm can provide specialized advice in such cases, if needs be by litigating the matter all the way to Strasbourg (European Court of Human Rights) or Luxemburg (European Court of Justice). 

Liesbeth ZegveldMichiel PestmanGöran SluiterMarieke van EikChanna SamkaldenTamara BurumaBarbara van Straaten