What key environmental and human rights trends can we expect in 2016?

2015 was in many ways a seminal year globally in relation to environmental and human rights issues. It was a year where the world witnessed unprecedented environmental issues related to climate change.

What key environmental and human rights trends can we expect in 2016?

The year marked the first time the globe ended a year with average temperatures reaching 1C above pre-industrial levels.

Whilst COP21 was heralded as a turning point – with countries committing to achieve a legal agreement to keep the world from warming to 2C – there is still a lot of work to be done to achieve this.

We also saw Pope Francis releasing his encyclical for the environment, framing climate change as a moral issue, followed by the Muslim leaders releasing a delectation in September similarly espousing the need to address climate change to protect “the gifts bestowed on us by God… Whom we know as Allah”.  

2015 was also the final year of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), leading to the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals.  The 17 Goals will seek to demonstrate an action plan for the people, planet and prosperity.

In December, the Institute for Human Rights and Business released its annual top 10 business and human rights issues for 2016.  I was particularly excited to see that bold leadership (number two on the list) was seen as a requirement to combat forced labour and human trafficking.

What was even more interesting, in my view was the clear convergence taking place between environmental and human rights issues. At the beginning of 2015, our team sat down to consider our vision and work. We looked at our values, how to harness our legal expertise in the areas of sustainability, business and human rights, combined with a passion to fight human trafficking.

Our vision is to strive to “make a significant contribution to the development and application of law and best practice in the areas of business and human rights and ensure the sustainable growth of our business and team” – and for or some years we have been advising on environmental and human rights issues.

But it is only more recently that we are seeing business and governments beginning to consider the interconnectedness of all these issues and the need to tackle them on a more holistic basis.  Procurement is a key factor.

So, what are the top five trends that we predict will be key to business in 2016? 

1. Supply chain, supply chain, supply chain – the challenges for business and government to tackle slavery and human trafficking and managing environmental impacts is not set to diminish.

2. Climate change – challenges on how to tackle it from a policy, legal, civil society and business perspective will no doubt also lead to a rise in the application of climate change justice.

3. Rise in freelance market and remote work – as more companies and people seek to work differently by pairing talent with business.

4. Corporate social responsibility as a differentiator –global moves to mandate non-financial disclosure and reporting on CSR issues.

5. Rise in tackling diversity – advancing the economic empowerment of girls and women.

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