The impact of British business in developing countries will be easier to monitor following changes in company law, says CAFOD. However, the aid agency warns further steps are needed to ensure all companies act responsibly. The new Companies Act 2006 became law on 8 November. Company directors will have a legal duty not just to maximise profit but to consider the effects of their business on people and the environment as well. The law requires some 1,300 publicly-listed companies to report back on their social and environment impacts at home and abroad, as well as employee and supply chain issues. CAFOD, which has long campaigned for improved workers' rights in global supply chains, welcomes the new Law as a good first step in making companies more accountable for their actions. CAFOD believes the Bill will encourage more UK businesses to be open and responsible in their operations and this should have a positive knock-on effect for workers, communities and consumers. The change in the law is the result of huge public pressure by development charities, environment and human rights organisations, trade unions and faith groups. CAFOD supporters were among the 100,000 campaigners who contacted their MPs asking for new laws to ensure business does not profit at the expense of people and the environment. Private Sector Policy Analyst for CAFOD Anne Lindsay said: "This is a good start. Thanks to campaigners, the UK government has recognised the public wants to know the impact that companies have on people and the planet. Consumers in the UK benefit from the labours of people in poorer countries but are often unaware of the real cost of the products they buy. This law should help change that. "More needs to be done to ensure corporate abuses become a thing of the past. Only 1,300 companies are required to report under the new Law - exemptions leave thousands of influential companies such as ASDA and Virgin free from this kind of obligation." CAFOD's ongoing Unearth Justice campaign aims to ensure that gold mining companies act responsibly so communities in gold-rich countries such as Honduras and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) do not suffer conflict, corruption and environmental damage. The UK is a major centre for the global mining industry with three of the biggest mining companies in the world based in London and 70 gold mining companies listed here. Many of these smaller companies fall outside the scope of the new law. Lindsay added: "The Bill is to be reviewed in the next two years and CAFOD will be looking at whether it has been effective so far and what more needs to be done. Ultimately we want to see reporting requirements apply to all UK companies operating globally."
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