Human Rights Council

How can the UN Guiding Principles end plastic…

How can the UN Guiding Principles end plastic pollution? - Forum on Business and Human Rights 2023

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Day 1 (Room XXVI) - How can the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights inform the negotiations on a new legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution? - 12th United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights 27 - 29 November 2023
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Brief description of the session:
  • All people everywhere have the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment as recently recognized by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 48/13 and the General Assembly in its resolution 76/300. Clean air, a safe climate, access to safe water and adequate sanitation, healthy and sustainably produced food, non-toxic environments in which to live, work, study, and play, and healthy biodiversity and ecosystems are generally recognized as key elements of the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment (OHCHR-UNEP/UNDP). Our planet is polluted by plastics which contain chemicals that are seriously harmful to people and the environment. Plastics are accumulating in food chains, contaminating water, soil, and air, and releasing hazardous substances into the environment. Most plastics originate as fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases from cradle to grave. Recent scientific studies have found microplastics in human blood, lungs, and placenta, as well as in livestock feed and milk and meat products. Exposure to toxic chemicals often found in plastics can also affect future generations, impacting fertility, shortening gestation periods, and lowering birth weights. On 2 March 2022, the United Nations Environment Assembly adopted a historic resolution (5/14) which paves the way for the development of an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution including in the marine environment. A treaty that addresses the full life cycle of plastics, and closing governance gaps is crucial if we are to comprehensively address plastic pollution.
  • In this context, businesses play a crucial role in curbing plastic pollution, in particular to prevent and address any human rights abuses linked to plastics across their activities. According to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, all businesses, have a responsibility to respect human rights including those producing, using, and disposing of plastic across their activities. This session will discuss the policies and processes business enterprises should have in place to prevent, identify, minimize, and address any negative human rights impacts stemming from the lifecycle of plastics, including through sound human rights due diligence processes that include full disclosure of the full chemical composition of their plastic materials and products and clear provisions on transparency and conflict of interest as a means to ensure that corporate political engagement is responsible and rights-respecting.
Key objectives of the session:
  • Highlight the alarming impact of plastics on human rights and the environment and showcase the urgency to progress with an internationally binding treaty to end plastic pollution.
  • Reinforce the corporate responsibility to respect human rights in the context of plastics, particularly in relation to the rights of those most affected by plastic production and pollution including children, women, Indigenous Peoples, coastal communities, people living in extreme poverty, surrounding communities affected by plastic production facilities, and workers at heightened risk of occupational exposure like waste-pickers.
  • Discuss strategies and good practices for businesses to achieve effective human rights due diligence throughout the entire lifecycle of plastic.
  • Emphasize the importance of ensuring transparency and accountability to ensure corporate engagement is responsible and rights-respecting.
  • David Azoulay
  • Guangchunliu Gangmei
  • Charlene Collison
  • María Daniela Garcia
  • Jodie Roussell
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