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Technology & the Law of Corporate Responsibility – The Impact of Blockchain

The following is a guest post by Elizabeth Boomer, a legal research analyst in the Global Legal Research Directorate.

Picture by Susan Taylor-Pikulsky.

Blockchain, a technology regularly associated with digital currency, is increasingly being utilized as a corporate social responsibility tool in major international corporations. This intersection of law, technology, and corporate responsibility was addressed earlier this month at the World Bank Law, Justice, and Development Week 2019, where the theme was Rights, Technology and Development. The law related to corporate responsibility for sustainable development is increasingly visible due in part to several lawsuits against large international corporations, alleging the use of child and forced labor. In addition, the United Nations has been working for some time on a treaty on business and human rights to encourage corporations to avoid “causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their own activities and [to] address such impacts when they occur.”

DeBeers, Volvo, and Coca-Cola, among other industry leaders, are using blockchain, a technology that allows digital information to be distributed and analyzed, but not copied or manipulated, to trace the source of materials and better manage their supply chains. These initiatives have come as welcome news in industries where child or forced labor in the supply chain can be hard to detect, e.g. conflict minerals, sugar, tobacco, and cacao. The issue is especially difficult when trying to trace the mining of cobalt for lithium ion batteries, increasingly used in electric cars, because the final product is not directly traceable to a single source.

While non governmental organizations (NGOs) have been advocating for improved corporate performance in supply chains regarding labor and environmental standards for years, blockchain may be a technological tool that could reliably trace information regarding various products – from food to minerals – that go through several layers of suppliers before being certified as slave- or child labor- free.

Child labor and forced labor are still common in some countries. The majority of countries worldwide have ratified International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 182, prohibiting the worst forms of child labor (186 ratifications), as well as the ILO Convention prohibiting forced labor (No. 29, with 178 ratifications), and the abolition of forced labor (Convention No. 105, with 175 ratifications). However, the ILO estimates that approximately 40 million men and women are engaged in modern day slavery and 152 million children are subject to child labor, 38% of whom are working in hazardous conditions. The enduring existence of forced labor and child labor raises difficult ethical questions, because in many contexts, the victim does not have a viable alternative livelihood.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the ILO have been especially active in trying to find viable solutions for men, women, and children to end child and forced labor.

Highlights of the 2019 Columbus Day Open House

 Anna Price, Legal Reference Librarian at the Law Library of Congress, collaborated on this post  On October 14, 2019, the Jefferson Building opened the doors of the Main Reading Room to the general public, providing tours and a chance to learn about a few of the divisions within the Library of Congress. Staff welcomed 5,437 visitors, including […]

Martha Nussbaum on Philosophy and Life: The 2019 Kellogg Biennial Lecture in Jurisprudence

Join us for the 2019 Frederic R. and Molly S. Kellogg Biennial Lecture in Jurisprudence! Philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum will be the featured speaker for the 10th anniversary of the event on Wednesday, December 4 at 5:00 p.m. Brian Butler, professor of philosophy and legal scholar at the University of North Carolina Asheville, will interview Professor Nussbaum […]

Congress.gov New, Tip, and Top for November 2019

Last month Margaret shared the update to our Committee Profile pages that added new links to our Committee Schedule.  This was one in a series of improvements surrounding the Committee Schedule that first launched in January.  We added the next three scheduled hearings to the homepage, links from the hearing pages to the legislation or […]

Spanish Legal Documents (15th – 19th Centuries): Laws and Statutes; Notarial Instruments

The following post was written in collaboration with Dante Figueroa, Senior Legal Information Analyst at the Law Library of Congress. Today we bring you another big update from our Spanish Legal Documents series. For more on the history of this collection, as well as our ongoing efforts to present the full collection online, see our previous posts describing […]

40 Years of Gender Neutral Succession Rules for Swedish Royals

While researching one issue related to laws in my jurisdictional portfolio I often come across another interesting piece of information. For instance, while reading about the Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf’s decision to revoke the royal highness titles for five of his grandchildren, I realized that today, November 7, 2019, marks the 40th anniversary of the amendment to […]

An Interview with Abdulhadi Zafar, Foreign Law Intern

Today’s interview is with Abdulhadi Zafar, a foreign law intern working with Foreign Law Specialist George Sadek at the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress. Abdulhadi conducts research on the laws of Gulf Cooperation Council countries.   Describe your background? I am from Saudi Arabia. I was born and raised in the holy city of Mecca. […]

In Japan: Pardon System Debated

The following is a guest post by Sayuri Umeda, a foreign law specialist who covers Japan and other countries in East and Southeast Asia. Sayuri has previously written posts for In Custodia Legis on various topics, including New Era, New Law Number, Holy Cow – Making Sense of Japanese Wagyu Cow Export Rules, Japanese Criminal Legal System as Seen Through the Carlos Ghosn Case, Disciplining Judges for […]

On the Shelf: International and Foreign Resources on Indigenous Law

November is celebrated as National American Indian Heritage Month in the United States. In addition to our guide to Indigenous Law Resources online for U.S.-centric sources on indigenous law, the Law Library also holds a number of international and foreign law resources on indigenous law in other countries. For instance, earlier this year, the Global Legal […]