In the run up to the G4S Annual General Meeting taking place on 25 May 2017, LPHR notes the striking omission in G4S’ latest corporate social responsibility report to any reference to the UK National Contact Point’s (UK NCP) critical Follow-Up Statement last June that found the company to be in continuing breach of its human rights obligations in regard to contracted activities in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.
In the human rights section of G4S’ 2016 CSR report, all that is stated in relation to current human rights challenges is the following (which is replicated in the report statement of CSR Committee Chair, Clare Spottiswoode):
“This report does not include a section on current [human rights] issues as (at the time of writing) there are no further developments or new issues to report.”
This clearly appears to be an inaccurate and misleading statement to shareholders and other stakeholders which raises significant transparency concerns.
In the year since G4S’ last AGM, the Company has experienced a number of human rights developments. In addition to the UK NCP’s Follow-Up statement published last June that significantly found G4S to be in continuing non-compliance with its human rights obligations, there has been the subsequent, and arguably-related, announcement in December 2016 of an agreement to sell G4S Israel to FIMI Opportunity Funds for £88 million. G4S’ annual report published last month states this transaction has not yet been completed. As long as this remains the case, G4S may continue to be in breach of its human rights obligations in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, which, moreover, they have failed to fully acknowledge as noted by both LPHR and the UK NCP in its Follow-Up statement.
In conjunction with G4S’ resounding silence on being found to be in continuing breach of fundamental business and human rights obligations, it is notable that the human rights section of its CSR report explicitly states that its human rights policy and related framework is based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. It is very troubling that G4S continues to repeat its stated commitment to business and human rights responsibilities given the context of the UK NCP’s adverse human rights findings, plus the UK NCP’s critical observation in its Follow-Up Statement that G4S had been “selective and misleading” in its public response to the UK NCP’s Final Statement in 2015.
It should further be noted that the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre recently published LPHR letters that were submitted earlier this year to G4S and FIMI Opportunity Funds. The letters requested clarification on key issues, including: G4S disclosure of its breach of human rights obligations to FIMI Opportunity Funds; the extent of its withdrawal from contracts in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory; and the required performance by FIMI Opportunity Funds of human rights due diligence in light of the NCP’s adverse findings.
G4S provided a brief written reply published by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre. G4S’ reply does not fully clarify whether the Company will continue to be involved in the occupied Palestinian territory through its operations or business relationships. G4S’ reply then relies on commercial confidentiality to not disclose whether FIMI Opportunity Funds were aware of the UK NCP’s findings during sale negotiations. It should be noted that FIMI Opportunity Funds has not yet provided a reply.
Finally, G4S’ 2016 CSR report and 2017 AGM follows the UK Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights’ key recommendation in its recent Human Rights and Business Report (published in March 2017), that the Government should not award large public sector contracts, export credit, and other financial benefits to companies who have received negative final statements from the UK National Contact Point and who have not made effective and timely efforts to address any issues raised. This significant recommendation explicitly refers to LPHR’s written evidence concerning the UK government’s regrettable award to G4S last summer of a major contract to manage a discrimination helpline, despite having been found in continuing non-compliance of human rights obligations by the UK NCP.