Environmental Rights

Business operations degrade land and do not make effort to restore land to previous state


Land degradation is a process whereby the value of the biophysical environment is depleted, including by human-induced drivers. Critical human-induced drivers include deforestation, wetland drainage, overgrazing, unsustainable land use practices, and the expansion of agricultural and industrial operations, such as for energy production. Industrial expansion often involves infrastructure development and mining and quarrying, which can involve activities like gas flaring and damming, and the further degradation of land through desertification and pollution.


Aside from severe environmental impact, land degradation affects internationally protected human rights to food, water, health and livelihood. Land degradation particularly impacts the poorest and hungriest populations most reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods and with limited alternatives. Increasingly, environmental degradation creates environmental refugees forced to leave their homes due to lack of resources. Scarcity of resources can also generate political and social tension and armed conflict within communities.


Land degradation might cause particular distress to indigenous communities, including because of their cultural or spiritual relationship with land. Indigenous Peoples have rights to the conservation, restoration and safeguarding of the productive capacity of their lands, territories and resources.


Businesses are obliged to mitigate the risk of land degradation caused by their operations. Even where not mandated by national law, businesses should perform environmental impact assessments (with the cooperation of the relevant people concerned) and undertake comprehensive and adequate due diligence regarding environmental factors.


Businesses should seek to take restorative measures such as tree-planting, and other strategies, to combat pollution generated by their operations.

Relevant Human Rights Instruments

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966, Articles 1 and 27;
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966, Article 2;
Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, 1989 (No. 169), Article 7(3);
United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, 1994;
Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, 1992;
See also, the United Nations Draft Principles on Human Rights and the Environment, 1994




SDG 1.3

Businesses that implement restorative measures may contribute to achieving SDG 1.3: Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable.



SDG 2.4

Implementing restorative measures also assists in achieving SDG 2.4: By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality.



SDG 6.6

Restorative measures further support SDG 6.6: By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes.



SDG 8.4

Businesses that mitigate land degradation contribute to accomplishing SDG 8.4: Improve progressively, through 2030, global resource efficiency in consumption and production and endeavour to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation, in accordance with the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production, with developed countries taking the lead.

SDG 12


SDG 12.2

Implementation of restorative measures may also contribute to achieving SDG 12.2: By 2030, achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources.

SDG 12.6
Businesses that take restorative measures may help to achieve SDG 12.6: Encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle.

SDG 15


SDG 15.1

Implementing restorative measures may contribute to achieving SDG 15.1: By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements.

SDG 15.2
Implementation of restorative measures may also contribute to achieving SDG 15.2: By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally.

SDG 15.3
Preventing land degradation assists SDG 15.3: By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world.