Guidelines to Good Practices

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes (A/HRC/36/41)

Download report here:  Good Practice Guidelines

Over the past several decades, many States have made welcome progress in reducing the impacts of toxics. However, this progress has not been shared equally. There remain disparities within and among countries of all income levels in respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights implicated by toxics. Between high-income countries and those of low and middle incomes, the disparity is serious.

These guidelines for good practices are intended to assist States in ensuring that their laws and other practices are in line with their human rights obligations. In this vein, the Special Rapporteur recommends that States and other stakeholders apply the following principles:

(a)    States must ensure that legislation and other practices reflect their duty to respect, protect and fulfil human rights obligations implicated by hazardous substances and wastes, including the rights to life, to health and to physical integrity;

(b)    States must ensure that their practices relating to hazardous substances and wastes ensure equality and do not discriminate against any vulnerable group, including children, the poor, workers, persons with disabilities, older persons, indigenous peoples, migrants and minorities, and take into account gender-specific risks;

(c)    States should use inherently safer design, implement a life-cycle approach to protect the most vulnerable from hazardous substances and wastes and should, with urgency, apply a global approach;

(d)    States must enact and enforce legislative and regulatory frameworks to protect human rights against infringement caused by business operations that produce, use, release, store and dispose of hazardous substances and wastes, including the foreign operations of businesses based in their territory; States must not lower standards of protection and must continuously improve protections; to fulfil their obligations, States should explore cost-recovery systems;

(e)    States must establish effective institutions capable of taking timely action to protect human rights; States must prevent conflicts of interest and should implement a whole-of-government approach;

(f)    States must enable people and peoples to claim and defend their rights against the threats of toxic and otherwise hazardous substances and wastes;

(g)    Businesses should conduct human rights due diligence for the life cycle of toxics in their products and their operations, including supply and value chains, and should identify and assess risks, prevent and mitigate impacts, and be transparent and accountable regarding their efforts; States, as part of their duty to protect, should compel businesses to conduct and publicly disclose such due diligence;

(h)    States must ensure that victims of the effects of hazardous substances and wastes have access to an effective remedy, including remediation, health care, compensation and a guarantee of non-repetition, among others, and must reduce systemic obstacles, including the burden of proof and causation, among others, that prevent victims of toxic exposure from accessing remedies.


  1. Introduction
  2. Duties of States
    1. Respect, protect and fulfil
    2. Protect the most vulnerable
    3. Adopt fundamental approaches
    4. Enact and enforce legislation
    5. Create effective institutions
    6. Enable people to claim and defend their rights
  3. Responsibilities of businesses
    1. Identify and assess impacts
    2. Prevent and mitigate impacts
    3. Accounting for efforts to address impacts on human rights
    4. Key sectors
  4. Access to justice and remedy
    1. Effective remedy
    2. Obstacles to remedy
  5. Conclusions and recommendations