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14 Feb 2023

Global Business Initiative on Human Rights (GBI)

'Downstream' due diligence required by international standards & part of growing business practice, new GBI report highlights

'Effective downstream human rights due diligence: Key questions for companies'

...It is clear then, that human rights risks from the production phase onwards to the point of sale and beyond are within the scope of a human rights management approach that aligns with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). Assessing and addressing so-called downstream human rights impacts on people is a responsibility that flows directly from international standards, and is independent of any legislative requirement.

Yet, in current policy debates at the EU and OECD, the scope of human rights due diligence obligations is being contested, with some favouring an approach that limits requirements to conduct downstream due diligence to a limited set of circumstances – or not at all.

Companies are already conducting due diligence in downstream contexts

Companies taking a risk-based approach to human rights due diligence may find that downstream human rights impacts are likely to be particularly severe for certain products, services and relationships. Many companies are already addressing such risks, as evidenced in a forthcoming publication from the Danish Institute for Human Rights highlighting case studies on this topic. GBI member companies are among the businesses developing programmes and processes to identify, address and mitigate potential downstream impacts...

GBI peer learning on downstream human rights due diligence

...This necessarily encompasses a wide range of considerations that affect a plethora of corporate functions, including research and development, sales and service. Downstream risks may also go to the heart of a company’s business model and strategy, and so the integration of a human rights lens company-wide remains important... 

Considerations for effective downstream human rights due diligence

[W]e are pleased to share our new report Effective downstream human rights due diligence: Key questions for companies... It offers an overview of the expectations contained in international standards, and provides some initial questions for companies...

These considerations represent the start – and not the whole – of the thinking companies should do when implementing downstream due diligence...