The Relationship Between Voluntary Commitments and Applicable Law

Guidance on how the implementation of voluntary commitments relates to international and national legal requirements

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Purpose & Summary

The Accountability Framework provides guidance to companies on identification of potential environmental and social risks so that they can be avoided, mitigated, and addressed. Such risks can arise from non-compliance with laws, as well as compliance with laws that are not properly enforced or lack the necessary provisions to fully comply with international law. Core Principle 3.4 provides that, in addition to their voluntary commitments, companies must comply with applicable law and respect internationally recognized human rights. A company’s assessment of the applicable laws clarifies whether the legal framework within which it is working will facilitate, or place at risk, its fulfillment of voluntary commitments.

This document is a resource that companies can use to design procedures to identify and assess applicable law or to review their existing procedures related to such assessment. Specifically, it provides guidance for upstream and downstream companies to identify and assess the full range of law that is applicable to company commitments related to human rights, deforestation, and ecosystem conversion.

Topics in this guidance

1. Introduction

2. Determining the highest standard

3. What to do when laws are not implemented or enforced

4. What to do when voluntary commitments represent the highest standard and conflict with applicable law

ANNEX 1: Introduction to applicable law assessments

ANNEX 2: Context and timing for the assessment

ANNEX 3: Process of conducting an applicable law assessment

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Core Principle
Specification of Commitments

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