Human Rights and the Environment


Dr. Sara L. Seck, Associate Professor, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University

  • Procedural environmental rights
  • Substantive environmental rights and standards
  • Non-discrimination and attention to vulnerability


Relevance of the Environment to BHR

The environment has long been a subject area in responsible business conduct (RBC) guidance tools. For example, the UN Global Compact, dating from 2000, dedicates three of its ten principles to environment and only two explicitly to human rights,[1] while the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises added a chapter on the environment in 1991, long before introducing its human rights chapter in 2011.[2] Yet while environment has been a common theme, it has generally been treated – and taught – as distinct from human rights. An environmental human rights[3] approach to teaching business and human rights (BHR) provides an opportunity to explore with students the interconnection and interdependence of humans (people) and the environment (planet), while also drawing attention to differential impacts of environmental harms in line with understandings of environmental justice and environmental racism.[4]

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought into focus the importance of an environmental human rights approach to BHR. This is because at the end of the day, the health of people and the health of our planet are intimately connected. For example, it is well established that loss of biodiversity and climate change are linked to a rise in zoonotic diseases.[5] At the same time, those with health problems arising from exposure to pollution are more vulnerable to diseases like Covid-19, while those who lack access to clean water are less able to protect themselves by complying with public health guidelines such as hand washing.[6] While lockdowns have led to temporary reductions in air pollution, as economic activities resume, pollution levels will quickly bounce back to unacceptably harmful levels.[7] Yet, some governments and industries treat the economic challenges arising from Covid-19 as a reason to reduce environmental protection, by  lowering environmental standards, suspending environmental monitoring requirements, reducing environmental enforcement, and restricting public participation, viewing it as a luxury.[8] These actions also have adverse impacts on the work of environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs).[9]

Old arguments about the tension between environment and development or environment and economy present false choices: the real question is who pays (suffers) the environmental and climate costs (harms) externalized by industry and governments. The answer is, those most vulnerable to environmental and climate harms. These are environmental and climate justice problems that involve violations of human rights.

At a time of ‘building back better’,[10] it is important that environment and human rights not be treated as separate silos as has been commonplace in RBC guidance and industry practice, as well as state law and policy, and education. The language of sustainable development can unfortunately also contribute to thinking of environment, society, and economy as separate pillars, even though the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) clearly provide that all SDGs are integrated and indivisible.[11] Importantly, the environment must be understood as the floor from which a healthy society and healthy economy may grow, yet at the same time as a ceiling beyond which development cannot be sustainable as illustrated by scientific research that clarifies the physical and ecological limits of earth systems through a framework of nine planetary boundaries.[12]

Understanding Environmental Human Rights: Sources and Rights

Although the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights[13] do not make reference to any specific international treaties on the environment as they do in the context of human rights and labour rights, several UN Special Rapporteurs have recently documented sources of international and domestic law that clarify the nature of existing environmental human rights. For example, former Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment John Knox released a mapping report[14] in late 2013 in which he drew upon fourteen individual reports examining sources of international and regional human rights and environmental law including civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, women’s rights, the rights of the child, and much more.[15] Building on this research, in 2018, Knox presented Framework Principles for Human Rights and the Environment, consisting of sixteen Principles largely aimed at clarifying state obligations.[16] The Special Rapporteur was clear that more work needs to be done to clarify the responsibilities of businesses for human rights and the environment.[17] Nevertheless, the Framework Principles provide an excellent starting point. For example, Principle 12 confirms ‘States should ensure environmental standards are effectively enforced against both public and private actors’. With regard to the business responsibility to respect human rights, paragraph 35 clarifies:

“In accordance with the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the responsibility of business enterprises to respect human rights includes the responsibility to avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through environmental harm, to address such impacts when they occur and to seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships. Businesses should comply with all applicable environmental laws, issue clear policy commitments to meet their responsibility to respect human rights through environmental protection, implement human rights due diligence processes (including human rights impact assessments) to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address their environmental impacts on human rights, and enable the remediation of any adverse environmental human rights impacts they cause or to which they contribute.”[18]

The commentary to the first and second Framework Principles usefully clarifies the interdependence of environment and human rights: without a ‘safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment’ it is impossible to fully enjoy a vast range of human rights, including rights to life, health, food, water, and development; yet in order to protect the environment, it is vital to exercise human rights including rights to information, freedom of expression and association, participation and remedy.[19]

The Framework Principles reflect concepts and issues that are well known by those who study environmental rights, but often less well known by many in the BHR field. These include:

Procedural environmental rights

Sources of international environmental law such as Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration[20] and treaties such as the Aarhus Convention[21]and the Escazú Agreement,[22] together with sources of international human rights law, confirm the following rights:

  • Access to information on environmental matters that may undermine rights
  • Prior assessment of possible environmental impacts of proposed projects and policies including effects on human rights
  • Freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association with regard to environmental matters, as well as a safe space for environmental human rights defenders that is free from harassment, intimidation, and violence[23]
  • Effective public participation in environmental decision-making for all[24]
  • Access to effective remedies for violations of environmental human rights, including both violations of procedural rights and substantive rights

Substantive environmental rights and standards

Substantive environmental standards are established by states, but from an environmental human rights perspective, if the standards are not sufficient to protect the full realization of human rights dependent on the environment, then the state is failing to meet its duty to protect (subject to “progressive realization”). Compliance by businesses with state law will not be sufficient to “do no harm” in accordance with the independent responsibility to respect rights.[25] It is therefore important for businesses to understand the relationship between specific human rights, environmental standards, and environmental harms. The current Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, David Boyd, has provided a summary of evidence from more than 175 states of good practices in implementation of the overarching substantive right to a “safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment” by states, including practices that support both substantive and procedural rights.[26] Even in the absence of a substantive constitutional protection of a right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, it is important to understand that environmental human rights protections equally arise through the “greening” of other human rights – the recognition that without adequate environmental protection, these human rights are impossible to fully enjoy, including the right to life.[27]

The overarching substantive right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment may be subdivided into smaller issue areas, an idea promoted by the current Special Rapporteur, each of which has or will be the subject of individual reports by special rapporteurs:

  • The right to breathe clean air;[28]
  • The right to a safe climate;[29]
  • The right to safe drinking water and sanitation;[30]
  • The right to healthy and sustainably produced food;[31]
  • The right to non-toxic environments in which to live, work, study or play;[32] and
  • The right to healthy biodiversity and ecosystems.[33]

Non-discrimination and attention to vulnerability

The Framework Principles treat non-discriminationas a cross-cutting theme while Principle 14 elaborates upon the need for “additional measures to protect the rights of those who are most vulnerable to, or at particular risk from, environmental harm.”  Importantly, this vulnerability may arise due to the unusual susceptibility of some individuals to environmental harm, or due to a denial of their human rights, or both. The Framework Principles list examples of those who are most vulnerable or at risk, including: women; children; older persons; persons with disabilities; persons living in poverty; ethnic, racial or other marginalized minorities; members of indigenous peoples or traditional communities; and displaced persons. Children’s environmental rights have received particular attention by several UN Special Rapporteurs in recent years,[34] as well as several initiatives involving the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).[35]

Teaching Approaches

Teaching about business responsibilities for environmental human rights can be integrated into many different courses beyond courses that are dedicated to BHR. For example, I currently introduce the Framework Principles together with the UN Guiding Principles to my seminar course on Business and Environment at Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law. As Canada has recently amended its federal environmental assessment legislation and has renamed it the federal Impact Assessment Act, I intend to briefly introduce BHR and the concept of human rights due diligence and its relationship with human rights impact assessment to my Environmental Law classes in future.[36] And I have considered case law and legislation raising environmental human rights issues of access to justice when teaching Private International Law, including important BHR cases such as recent UK decisions in Vedanta[37] and Canadian cases like Chevron[38] and Nevsun.[39]

From a survey of course syllabi in the Teaching Business and Human Rights Forum Syllabi Bank, a focus on corporate accountability for environmental injustice appears to be a common theme in many business and human rights courses, often with particular attention to extractive industries using a range of case studies.[40] BHR teachers might also consider covering new developments connecting corporate climate litigation and human rights.[41]

Learning objectives when integrating environmental human rights into a more traditional BHR course might include:

  •  Explaining foundational concepts underpinning the relationship between human rights and the environment, and evaluating the implications of these concepts for BHR.
  •  Distinguishing between a procedural environmental rights approach and a substantive environmental rights approach, and understanding the relationship between the two.
  •  Identifying and evaluating international, domestic and transnational law sources that support an environmental human rights approach to BHR.
  •  Understanding and explaining cross-cutting issues of non-discrimination, vulnerability, and risk in relation to environmental harms, and the potential of an environmental human rights approach to BHR to address concerns of environmental and climate justice.

Additional learning objectives might include:

  • Debating the difference between a human rights due diligence approach and an environmental management approach to supply and value chain responsibility.
  • Considering the relationship between human rights impact assessment (HRIA) (see Human Rights Impact Assessment), environmental impact assessment, and other forms, such as social and sustainability impact assessments.
  • Explaining the difference between rights of nature[42] and environmental impacts on human rights, and their application to BHR.
  • Distinguishing between an approach to climate change that accounts for risks to the business and investors with one that accounts for risks to those vulnerable to climate harms.[43]
  • Understanding and addressing the situation of environmental human rights defenders in the context of BHR.

Teaching materials could draw upon the reports of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, as well as the primary legal materials identified above.

In addition, useful exercises could include comparing the approach taken to human rights and environment in common responsible business conduct guidance tools and in dispute resolution. For example, compare the human rights and environment chapters in the OECD MNE Guidelines. Then consider how these issues are treated in the OECD’s new Due Diligence guidance,[44] as well as other sector-specific guidance tools, such as the OECD‑FAO Guidance for Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains.[45] Similarly, consider how OECD National Contact Points mechanisms have treated specific instance complaints that raise both human rights and environmental issues.[46]

Additional issue areas under the right to a healthy environment also deserve attention in BHR classes. For example, climate change, which could have its own teaching note, has given rise to many responsible business guidance initiatives, but it is questionable how many fully integrate a business and human rights approach.[47] Some of these could be examined in class and students could be asked to design a model climate change and human rights policy for corporate clients, or asked to develop arguments for plaintiffs seeking to sue greenhouse gas emitters to prevent and remedy climate harms.[48] A rarely explored but tremendously important issue is the relationship among climate change, migration, and business responsibilities to respect human rights. This theme is evident in Chiara Macchi’s pioneering 2019 course at the University of Addis Ababa entitled Climate Change, Migration, and Human Rights in the Context of SubSaharan Africa.[49]

Considering the relationship between workers’ rights and toxic substances is another way in which to explicitly link business, human rights and environment. The UN Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances has developed useful guidance materials for businesses and states on this topic.[50]

Another important issue is the relationship between land rights (see Land Rights) and Environmental Human Rights Defenders (EHRDs).[51] The International  Service for Human Rights’ has developed A Human Rights Defender Toolkit for Promoting Business Respect for Human Rights that considers the specific challenges faced by EHRDs with reference to procedural environmental rights, as well as the particular issues confronting Indigenous peoples and women who take on the responsibility to defend the environment.[52] However, rather than adopting a ‘do no harm’ approach, the the ISHR defender’s toolkit suggests that businesses have a ‘discretionary opportunity to act’ going beyond the ‘normative responsibility to act’.

A different area of learning might be an analysis of the duties of corporate boards in relation to the environment and climate change. Several jurisdictions specifically list the environment as a ‘stakeholder’ that may or should be considered.[53] Policy directions are being put forward by securities exchanges on disclosure in relation to climate risks,[54] and the work of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures is well known.[55] Yet it is not clear how all of these initiatives align with a true environmental human rights approach to BHR. These issues can be discussed when teaching about the roles and responsibilities of institutional investors; fiduciary duties; and environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors, a topic of detailed consideration, for example, in Elizabeth Umlas’ summer 2016 Business and Human Rights course at Oxford University.[56]

Key Questions


  • Which human rights are affected by environmental impacts?
  • How do environmental harms cause or contribute to adverse human rights impacts?
  • Environmentalists have been critical of the Sustainable Development Goals and 2030 Agenda for buying into the idea of ‘green growth’ rather than adopting a ‘degrowth’ agenda essential in order to radically reduce overproduction and overconsumption by the rich and renew the health of our planet. Could an environmental human rights approach to BHR help to address this problem, or are more radical solutions required, such as fundamental changes to corporate laws and governance? What about the concept of the ‘circular economy’?[57]
  • Consider how you understand the ‘human’ who holds ‘rights’, as well as individual decision-makers within a business, and investors. Do you intuitively think of an individual who is autonomous and for whom the existence of relationships with family, community, and nature are irrelevant for how you understand their individual rights and interests? Can you re-imagine the rights holder as an individual for whom relationships with family, community, and nature are integral to their understanding of self, and so their wellbeing and rights?
  • Does the adoption of an environmental human rights approach have implications for how we understand the human who holds rights,[58] as well as how we should understand the interests of directors and shareholders?[59]
  • How does environmental harm affect members of vulnerable populations disproportiononately?

For business students

  • BHR is often seen as an issue of business ethics, whereas sustainability raises questions of business strategy, including how time factors into decision-making. Could an environmental human rights approach to climate change, with particular attention to the rights of children, help to link business ethics with business sustainability strategy?
  • What business functions are connected to potential environmental harms?
  • The UN Guiding Principles draw attention to the importance of business’s accounting for their human rights harms and remedying victims even if state law does not provide sufficient access to justice. How might a business approach its responsibility to remedy environmental human rights harms that it has caused or to which it has contributed even in the absence of laws mandating environmental remediation?
  • How could a responsibility to prevent and remedy environmental human rights harms be built into business strategy?
  • How can/should human rights due diligence address environmental impacts?

For law students

  • How is the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment defined under international law?
  • What are the sources and content of state obligations to protect individuals from environmental harm?
  • The UN Guiding Principles draws attention to the challenges of implementing BHR in conflict-affected areas, and the concept of jus cogens norms (peremptory norms from which no derogation is permitted) is well established in international law. In the recent Nevsun decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, the majority held that corporate accountability claims that implicate the host state in internationally wrongful conduct are nevertheless justiciable, and that Canadian courts may develop a civil remedy in domestic law for direct corporate violations of at least some customary international law norms. However the allegations at issue involve slavery and forced labour in Eritrea. Might a civil action that alleges violations of environmental human rights norms, perhaps alleging corporate conduct that causes or contributes to an unsafe climate system, be viable?
  • Could some environmental human rights norms meet the threshold of customary international law jus cogens norm, and if not, would this create litigation challenges?
  • As more governments consider adoption of mandatory due diligence legislation modeled on France’s Droit de Vigilance (see Mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence Legislation), how can an environmental human rights approach help to align business conduct of human rights and environmental due diligence?
  • What lessons could be learned from (environmental) impact assessment legislation in your jurisdiction?

For policy students

  • Could an environmental human rights approach to implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals help both business and government actors to better integrate the economic, social, and environmental pillars within safe planetary boundaries?
  • As governments adopt national action plans for BHR, how can they better integrate environmental dimensions into BHR, rather than as a separate consideration? How can BHR NAPs be aligned with nationally determined climate actions on mitigation and adaptation under the Paris Agreement. What about climate loss and damage?

Teaching Resources


[*] This teaching note may be cited as:

Sara L. Seck, “Teaching Note: Human Rights and the Environment,” in Teaching Business and Human Rights Handbook (Teaching Business and Human Rights Forum, 2020),

[1] United Nations Global Compact, “The Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact,” accessed July 6, 2020, Four principles address labor rights; one covers anti-corruption.

[2] OECD, OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (OECD Publishing, 2011),

[3] By ‘environmental human rights,’ I mean to capture the full nature of the relationship between human rights and the environment. Alternate terminology is generally not as inclusive. For example, ‘environmental impacts on human rights’ captures concerns addressed by substantive environmental rights and standards, but not procedural environmental rights. ‘Environmental rights’ may be confused with ‘rights of nature’, a distinct but related idea. See further below. For more information on the relationship between human rights and the environment, see the website of the Global Network for Human Rights and the Environment (GNHRE):

[4] See, e.g., Ingrid R. G. Waldron, There’s Something in the Water (Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing, 2018); Ellen Page and Ian Daniel, dirs., There’s Something in the Water (2 Weeks Notice, 2019); Carmen G. Gonzales, “Environmental Racism, American Exceptionalism, and Cold War Human Rights,” Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems (v. 26, no. 2, 2017), 281-315. 

[5] UN Environment Programme, “Emerging zoonotic diseases and links to ecosystem health – UNEP Frontiers 2016 chapter” (April 8, 2020),; UN Environment Programme, “UNEP Frontiers 2016 Report: Emerging Issues of Environmental Concern” (2016), 22,

[6] “Air pollution linked with higher COVID-19 death rates”, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, last updated May 5, 2020,; Katherine Bagley, “Connecting the Dots Between Environmental Injustice and the Coronavirus”, Yale Environment 360, Yale School of the Environment (May 7, 2020); Harriet Washington, “How environmental racism is fuelling the coronavirus pandemic”, Nature (May 19, 2020),; “Water challenge: clean water for hand washing”, World Meteorological Organization, accessed July 6, 2020,  

[7] Daniel Cohan, “COVID-19 shutdowns are clearing the air, but pollution will return as economies reopen”, The Conversation (May 8, 2020),

[8] “Global Conservation Rollbacks Tracker”, Conservation International, last updated June 23, 2020,; “Covid-19 environmental roll back ‘irrational and irresponsible’ rights expert”, United Nations, UN News (April 15, 2020),

[9] John Knox, “Environmental Human Rights Defenders – A global crisis”, Universal Rights Group (February 2017),

[10] Department of Global Communications, “Climate Change and COVID-19: UN urges nations to ‘recover better’”, United Nations, April 22, 2020,‘build-back-better’; “Build back better and preserve biodiversity after COVID-19 pandemic: UN chief”, United Nations, UN News (May 22, 2020),; “Building Back Better: A Sustainable, Resilient Recovery after COVID-19”, OECD, OECD Policy Responses to Coronavirus (COVID-19), June 5, 2020,; “Covid-19 updates from the United Nations Environment Programme”, UN Environment Programme, accessed August 10, 2020,

[11] United Nations, “Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (October 21, 2015), (According to the Preamble: “The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets which we are announcing today demonstrate the scale and ambition of this new universal Agenda. They seek to build on the Millennium Development Goals and complete what they did not achieve. They seek to realize the human rights of all and to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. They are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental.”)

[12] “Planetary Boundaries A Safe Operating Space for Humanity”, Stockholm Resilience Centre, accessed July 6, 2020, The nine boundaries are: climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, changes to biogeochemical flows, land use change, release of novel entities, atmospheric aerosol loading, freshwater abstraction, ocean acidification, and loss of stratospheric ozone.

[13] “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework,” Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises,” UN doc. A/HRC/17/31 (21 March 2011), (“UN Guiding Principles”).

[14] John Knox, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Issue of Human Rights Obligations Relating to the Enjoyment of a Safe, Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment”, United Nations Human Rights Council, UN doc. A/HRC/25/53 (Dec. 30, 2013),

[15] John Knox, “Report of the Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment: Mapping Report, United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (March 2014), accessed July 6, 2020, (The individual reports cover the following topics: ICESCR, ICCPR, CEDAW, CRC, UNGA & HRC including universal periodic review process; Special Procedures HRC; Indigenous Peoples; Global & regional environmental agreements; Non-binding international environmental instruments; Aarhus Convention; Asia-Pacific, Arab, African regions; Americas; Europe.)

[16] John Knox, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Issue of Human Rights Obligations Relating to the Enjoyment of a Safe, Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment: Framework Principles”, United Nations Human Rights Council, UN doc. A/HRC/37/59 (Jan. 24, 2018), (“Framework Principles”)

[17] Knox, “Framework Principles”, para 19.

[18] Knox, “Framework Principles”, para 35.

[19] Knox, “Framework Principles”, para 4.

[20] United Nations Environment Programme, “UNEP – Principle 10 and the Bali Guideline”, accessed July 6, 2020,

[21] United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, “The Aarhus Convention”, adopted 25 June 1998, entered into force 30 October 2001, last updated March 13, 2020,

[22] United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and Caribbean, “Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean,”adopted 4 March 2018, accessed July 6, 2020,

[23] “About Us”, Environment-Rights.Org, accessed July 6, 2020,

[24] These are distinct from what are sometimes referred to as ‘land rights’ of Indigenous peoples and other local communities. On the difference, see, Sara L Seck, “Indigenous Rights, Environmental Rights, or Stakeholder Engagement? Comparing IFC and OECD Approaches to the Implementation of the Business Responsibility to Respect Human Rights”, McGill Journal of Sustainable Development Law (v. 12, no. 1, 2016), 48-91.

[25]  UN Guiding Principles, Principles 11 and 23.

[26] David Boyd, “Good Practices in Implementing the Right to a Healthy Environment – 2020”, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, April 15, 2020, See further individual annexes identifying regional practices.

[27] John Knox, “Greening human rights”, OpenDemocracy, OpenDemocracy Editorial Partnership, July 14, 2015,

[28] David Boyd, “The Right to Breathe Clean Air – 2019”, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, February 19, 2019,

[29] David Boyd, “A Safe Climate: Human Rights and Climate Change”, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, October 16, 2019,

[30] “Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation”, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner, accessed July 6, 2020,

[31] “Toolkit on the Right to Food”, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner, accessed July 6, 2020,

[32] “Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes”, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner, accessed July 6, 2020,

[33] “Call for inputs on healthy ecosystems and human rights: sustaining the foundations of life”, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner,

[34] “The Rights of the Child and Hazardous Substances and Wastes”, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner, accessed July 6, 2020,; “Children’s rights and the environment”, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner, accessed July 6, 2020,

[35]  “Children’s Environmental Rights Initiative”, Children’s Environmental Rights Initiative, accessed August 10, 2020,; “Joint UNICEF-UNEP-OHCHR Expert Group Meeting ‘Policy guidance for promoting and protecting children’s rights to a healthy environment in the ASEAN region’”, July 2020,

[36] This builds on a research project on the relationship between responsible business conduct guidance tools in the extractive sector and the new Impact Assessment legislation. See

[37] Vedanta Resources PLC and another (Appellants) v Lungowe and others (Respondents), [2019] UKSC 20.

[38] Chevron Corporation v. Yaiguaje, 2015 SCC 42, [2015] 3 S.C.R. 69 (Can.); Yaiguaje v. Chevron Corporation, 2018 ONCA 472, [2018] O.J. No. 2698 (Can.).

[39] Nevsun Resources Ltd. v. Araya, 2020 SCC 5, [2020] S.C.J. No. 5 (Can.). [See further below in questions to consider.]

[40] In addition to case profiles on the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre website ( or, an excellent source of sample cases implicitly raising environmental human rights dimensions is Amnesty International, “Injustice Incorporated: Corporate Abuses and the Human Right to Remedy” (March 7, 2014),

[41] Samvel Varvastian and Felicity Kalunga, “Transnational Corporate Liability for Environmental Damage and Climate Change: Reassessing Access to Justice after Vedanta v. Lungowe,” Transnational Environmental Law (v. 9, no. 2, 2020), 323–45. See especially Greenpeace Philippines, Petition to the commission on human rights of the Philippines requesting for investigation of the responsibility of the carbon majors for human rights violations resulting from the impacts of climate change (2015). For related documents see In Greenpeace Southeast Asia,

[42] David Boyd, Rights of nature: a legal revolution that could save the world (Toronto: ECW Press, 2017). 

[43] Sara L. Seck, “A relational analysis of enterprise obligations and carbon majors for climate justice”, Oñati Socio-Legal Series, forthcoming: Climate Justice in the Anthropocene (2020), See also Expert Group on Climate Obligations of Enterprises, Principles on Climate Obligations of Enterprises (The Hague: Eleven International Publishing, online, 2018),

[44]  OECD, “OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct” (2018),

[45] OECD and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations “OECD‑FAO Guidance for Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains” (OECD Publishing, October 14, 2016),

[46] Seck, “Indigenous Rights, Environmental Rights, or Stakeholder Engagement?” See OECD, Database of Specific Instances,  and OECD Watch, National Contact Points,

[47] Sara L. Seck, “Climate Change, Corporate Social Responsibility, and the Extractive Industries”, Journal of Environmental Law and Practice (v. 31, no. 1, 2018), 271-292,; Sara L. Seck, “Climate change and the human rights responsibilities of business enterprises”, in Climate Change, Justice and Human Rights, David Ismangil, Karen van der Schaaf and Lars van Troost, eds., 41-54, Amnesty International (online) (2020),; Seck, “A relational analysis of enterprise obligations”.

[48] Isabella Kaminski, “Carbon Majors Can Be Held Liable for Human Rights Violations, Philippines Commission Rules”, The Climate Docket (December 9, 2019),

[49] Chiara Macchi (University of Wageningen), “Climate Change, Migration and Human Rights in the Context of SubSaharian Africa”, University of Addis Ababa – College of Law and Governance Studies (May 2019), on file with the Teaching Business and Human Rights Forum Syllabi Bank.

[50] “Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes”, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner, accessed July 6, 2020,

[51] John Knox, “Environmental Human Rights Defenders – A global crisis”, Universal Rights Group (February 2017),

[52] International Service for Human Rights, “A Human Rights Defender Toolkit For Promoting Business Respect For Human Rights” (2015),

[53] UK Companies Act, 2006, c. 46, s. 172(1)(d); BCE Inc. v. 1976 Debentureholders, 2008 SCC 69, [2008] 3 S.C.R. 560. (Can.); Canada Business Corporations Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-44, s. 122(1.1)(b).

[54] “National Instrument 51-102 Continuous Disclosure Obligations”, Ontario Securities Regulation, June 12, 2018,; “CSA Staff Notice 51-358 Reporting of Climate Change-related Risks”, Ontario Securities Regulation, Canadian Securities Administrators, August 1, 2019,; “Commission Guidance Regarding Disclosure Related to Climate Change”, Securities and Exchange Commission, February 8, 2010,

[55] “Publications”, Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, accessed July 6, 2020,

[56] Elizabeth Umlas, “Business and Human Rights Syllabus and Reading List,” Oxford University Master of Studies in International Human Rights Law (July 2016), on file with the Teaching Business and Human Rights Forum Syllabi Bank.

[57]  Anne Velenturf and Phil Purnell. “What a sustainable circular economy would look like” May 6, 2020,

[58] Sara L. Seck, “Transnational labour law and the environment: Beyond the bounded autonomous worker”, Canadian Journal of Law and Society (v. 33, no. 2, 2018), 137-157,

[59] Sara L. Seck, “A relational analysis of enterprise obligations and carbon majors for climate justice”, Oñati Socio-Legal Series, forthcoming: Climate Justice in the Anthropocene (2020).