Labour, Environment and Asian Transnational Corporations--Toward an East Asian Business and Human Rights Movement

Date|2023 / 11 / 25 – 26, Saturday and Sunday
Time|Saturday 9:00 – 17:30, Sunday 10:00 – 14:30
Location|3F, Conference Hall, National Central Library (20 Zhung-Shan S. Rd. Taipei 100201, Taiwan)

Thanks to globalisation and technology advancement, corporations have become gigantic and powerful. Possessing those invulnerable financial, organisational, technological, political and even ideological instruments, corporations are capable of shaping the world we live in, influencing people’s daily ordinaries. Sometimes, the influences are unfortunately damages brought by exploiting workers and polluting the environment. Especially, under the globalised operation of business, it has become a serious problem that transnational corporations from the global north commit human rights violations in the global south countries.

Since the 1980s, a lot of corporations from Japan, Korea and Taiwan have become transnational and gained significant positions in global supply chains. Compared with making TNCs from western countries to be accountable on human rights issues in global supply chains, it is usually more difficult to deal with Asian transnational corporations (ATNCs) because most of them are not brands who face consumers in end markets directly. In industries with well-developed social audit mechanisms such as garment and electronics, when an East Asian country based supplier commits a human rights violation, victims usually have to rely on the intervention by the brands in western countries to  solve the problem even if the supplier is a powerful TNC capable of the remedy itself. As for in basic/upstream industries without well-known brands to the public, ATNCs victims abroad have nearly no means to seek justice commonly.

The incompatibility between ATNCs’ strong power and low accountability makes the legitimacy and necessity of corporations’ home countries to regulate ATNCs’ behaviour overseas. It is crucial to establish the legal framework in the home country that can hold the lead companies accountable for their human rights violation and environmental destruction in their supply chain. Furthermore, the victims in the supply chains of ATNC should be able to access the remedy in the ATNC’s home countries as well. In this conference, we are going to examine the practices of business and human rights (BHR) in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, and further explore the possibility of initiating a regional BHR movement leading to the establishment of a legal framework that ensures corporate accountability as well as access to remedy for victims in the supply chains of ATNCs. Mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence legislation will be discussed as a means to accomplish such ends.

Joint Statement

Civil society calls on Japan, Korea, Taiwan’s transnational corporations and governments to urgently take action and adopt BHR legislation to end corporate abuses and achieve sustainability for future generations

Human rights and sustainability are under pressing threat. Devastating human rights, environmental and biodiversity consequences arising from the triple planetary crisis—climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution—are upon us. This is compounded by the shrinking civic space in authoritarian states and intensified armed conflicts around the world such as the Russian military aggression against Ukraine and the Israeli military operation against Gaza.
Corporations, with their ever-expanding economic and political influences, have long been one of the key actors causing and contributing to these crises, and they must now play an equally instrumental role to address and solve these burning issues.

Corporations from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan play important roles in global supply chains and bear the responsibility to respect human rights and the environment throughout their operations. However, corporations from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have failed to implement their responsibility by outsourcing human rights and environmental risks in their supply chains. Transnational corporations cause, contribute to and are directly linked to human rights violations and environmental destruction by their operation in host countries but the rights holders are left without any remedy.

We, the undersigned organisations and trade unions, urge corporations from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan to prevent and address human rights and environmental risks in their supply chains, especially occuring transnationally. We also urge the governments and lawmakers of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan to adopt necessary laws and policies and to hold corporations accountable for their transnational human rights violations and environmental destruction in their home countries. Meanwhile, it is imperative to ensure access to remedies for rights holders in host countries, and decision makers in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan need to take such measures.

The only way for corporations and governments to survive in times of crises is to put people and the planet first rather than profit. We urge corporations and the governments from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan to fulfil their responsibility as leaders in Asia by respecting human rights and the environment throughout supply chains.

We call on our governments and lawmakers to seize this opportunity by urgently adopting a mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence (mHREDD) law that is feasible and effective. Governments and lawmakers must also consider other BHR-related measures that are complementary and ensure the implementation of human rights and environmental due diligence, such as by incorporating human rights and sustainability provisions in trade and investment agreements, utilising the strength of public procurements, etc.

The time to act is now. We have already witnessed countless environmental and human rights abuses relating to business activities, and this suffering continues to this day. To stop the suffering and to realise human rights for all and achieve sustainability for generations to come, we must act NOW!

To transnational companies,
We call on transnational companies to respect human rights, to implement HREDD based on UNGPs and to advocate for the mainstreaming of mHREDD, utilising their influence to protect victims of human rights abuses and to contribute to the establishment of a level playing field.

To the governments of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan,
Once again, we call on the governments and lawmakers of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan to urgently enact effective mHREDD legislation as well as other measures that ensure the implementation of human rights and environmental due diligence. 

List of Signatories
台灣跨國企業監察 Taiwan Transnational Corporations Watch (TTNC Watch)
環境權保障基金會 Environmental Rights Foundation
台灣人權促進會 Taiwan Association for Human Rights
環境法律人協會 Environmental Jurists Association
人權公約施行監督聯盟 Covenants Watch
Korea Transnational Corporations Watch (KTNC Watch)
東吳大學張佛泉人權研究中心 Chang Fo-chuan Center for the Study of Human Rights
東吳大學人權學程 Human Rights Program, Soochow University
台灣勞工陣線 Taiwan Labor Front
Human Rights Now
青年九五勞動聯盟 Youth Labor Union 95
台灣勞動者協會 Taiwan Laborers Association
清潔成衣運動東亞聯盟 Clean Clothes Campaign East Asia Coalition


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