Transnational Corporate Liability Litigation and Access to Environmental Justice: The Vedanta v Lungowe Case
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Peru, PE
Peruvian Diplomat. Second Secretary at the Embassy of Peru in Bolivia. He holds a Master of Laws (LLM) in Public International Law from The London School of Economics and Political Sciences (LSE), a Master in International Relations and Diplomacy from the Diplomatic Academy of Peru, and a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from the Universidad del Pacífico in Lima, Peru. He has also attended The Hague Academy of International Law and the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po). During 2018 and 2019, he served as Coordinator in the Cabinet of the Secretary General of Foreign Affairs of Peru. In 2020, he worked in the General Directorate of Sovereignty, Limits and Antarctic Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Peru.
On April 10, 2019, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom released the Vedanta Resources Plc & another v Lungowe & others judgment. This case dealt with an English domiciled parent company’s possible liability for alleged environmental damage caused by one of its subsidiaries in Zambia. Based on the arguable duty of care Vedanta could owe to foreign claimants affected by the operations of one of its overseas subsidiaries, the Supreme Court ruling adopted a ‘new approach’ –regarding transnational corporate liability litigation–, which established that the parent company’s home state’s national courts might have jurisdiction to hear this case. This article seeks to explore the Supreme Court’s judgment, which is expected to have significant consequences and influence the reasoning of other domestic courts in countries where parent companies are located. Although the Supreme Court’s decision aims to give access to justice to the affected (Zambian) community, this article argues that it is questionable whether the adoption of this ‘new approach’ would encourage parent companies to adopt measures oriented towards the compliance of international environmental standards. Instead, the Court’s ruling could lead parent companies to assume less responsibility and to be less transparent regarding operations carried out by their foreign subsidiaries.