Legal Translation for Corporate Responsibility

Translation Services Help Multinationals Remain Human-Rights Friendly

We’ve blogged about the on-going need for legal translation services for multinational corporations. Do you remember when Apple was scandalized in the media because of the workplace conditions at the Asian factories where their premier products – iPhones and iPads – were made? Did you hear about the protests against Chick-fil-A because of the anti-LGBT statements made by its founder? If so, then you are aware that closer attention is being paid to the activities of corporations throughout the world.

Over the last few years, there has been an increasing awareness on the part of consumers – in the United States and globally – of the need for “human-rights friendly” products, and the need for information about the practices of many multinational corporations. Indeed, more and more, people are taking an interest in the human-rights track record of the corporations from which they buy their everyday products.

That kind of interest, and in some cases activism, calls for a kind of transparency on the part of companies to discuss the way in which it does business, which was not a requirement back in the day. In that vein, in-house counsel for multinational companies should be aware of the demand for information on how a company does business, and how it creates its products when they are manufactured oversees.

Accordingly, this article will cover some of the more recent trends with regard to multinational corporate responsibility. Being aware of these trends and strategies can help you guide your corporation in the right direction to employing human-rights friendly practices so that the fate that befell Apple and Chick-fil-A will not be something you need to worry about.

Legal Translation Services for Litigation

Multinational corporations doing business overseas have generated great employment opportunities for foreign employees residing in the southern half of the globe. However, there have been unfortunate, and often unintended, consequences with regard to human rights and the environment as a result of those activities. The call for multinational accountability came to a head in 2011 with the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Typically, the usual response to redressing lapses in corporate social responsibility has been in the courts. Legal liability is the goal to hold corporations responsible and accountable for their activities. Most often, the civil lawsuits against a corporation will sound in tort liability – i.e., that a corporation engaged in certain activities that resulted in a particular human rights, or environmental, harm of some kind.

A good example of litigation being used to combat bad corporate actors can be found in the decades of environmental litigation that has occurred in the United States since the early 1970s. The battle over manufacturing waste in our rivers, or the revival of certain lands deemed to be “brownfields,” are just ways in which a polluter is asked to be accountable for past activities.

The Problem of Jurisdiction

While domestic matters are easily handled within the country where the company and the alleged victims reside. Problems arise, however, when dealing with multinational corporations that reside in many countries, and where the alleged human-rights or environmental harm is not the country in which the corporation is headquartered.

Thus, legal liability can easily be hung up by jurisdictional problems over what entity can be deemed the responsible party. Many times, multinational corporations work with subsidiaries over which they do not have complete control. If a human rights issue materializes, it is possible that the main multinational company will be seen as the target for victims, even though it is the subsidiary in a foreign country that is truly the bad actor in the case.

That said, once jurisdiction can be established to adjudicate a corporate responsibility matter, litigation can still serve as an effective tool to require accountability on the part of a multinational corporation. It provides a way to settle disputes, bring compensation to victims, and make a statement about a corporation’s activities.

Litigation, however, is not the only avenue for corporate accountability. There are actually three other strategies that are worthy of attention:

1. Public procurement;
2. Regulation through trade; and
3. Multi-stakeholder or private banking regulation.

1. Public Procurement

Public procurement is just a fancy phrase to describe the purchase of goods and services by a government, such as document translation services. You may ask: How can a government purchaser minimize human rights abuses? Well, governments as consumers can have a huge impact on corporate behavior. In many countries 12% of overall economic activity is public procurement.

Simply stated, governments have considerable buying power. Thus, governments can use that buying power constructively to only support those companies that engage in human rights, and environmentally, friendly activities. In fact, a government can reduce human rights demands to writing in the contracts it has with multinational companies that are providing goods and services.

2. Trade Regulation

Trade measures can be an effective way for a government to influence corporate compliance with human rights standards. Through the prism of corporate accountability, an import ban on a company’s product can place considerable pressure on that company to comply with better labor standards, particularly in avoiding child labor. Governments, however, need to be careful not to engage in trade restrictions that are overbroad, or just poorly designed, as that can be considered protectionist behavior.

3. Private Regulation

With a hope of corporations somewhat “policing themselves,” governments can encourage a dialogue with the various stakeholders in international transactions. It can be done. In 2016, a Dutch Banking Sector Agreement was struck between the banking sector, the government, trade unions, and non-governmental organizations. This first-of-its-kind agreement resulted in a policy agreement among the parties to improve human rights and allow for remediation when there is a violation.

Any Matters Involving Multinational Accountability Require Translators

In any of the strategies discussed above, legal document translations are required. Indeed, whenever dealing with multinational corporations, legal translators are a necessary component. We welcome you to contact All Language Alliance, Inc. to help you navigate any international human rights matter. Call us to learn more about partnering with All Language Alliance, Inc. at 303-470-9555.

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