UN Human Rights Chief urges EU institutions to ensure due diligence directive is aligned with UN Guiding Principles
"Final Call for Alignment of the EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights"
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) welcomes the efforts by the European Union to bring the negotiations of the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive to a successful conclusion. [...]
OHCHR therefore calls on EU Member States and the European Parliament, with the support of the Commission, to adopt a robust Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive that is aligned in all essential elements with the UNGPs.
This implies, first, that the Directive should adopt a true risk-based approach. [...]
Second, the Directive should also clearly differentiate what is expected from a company when it causes or contributes to an adverse impact, or when its operations, products or services are linked to an adverse impact through a business relationship. That includes recognizing the limits of over-reliance on contracts and audits as the main “tools” of human rights due diligence and the need for companies to go beyond them if due diligence is to deliver better outcomes for people. A contract putting obligations on a business partner is of limited use when the company’s own business model and strategy is the real problem. Similarly, a top-down approach to auditing or policing business relationships for non-compliance is unlikely to address the root causes of many adverse human rights impacts, which require collaboration and innovation between businesses. It is vital that European Union law does not have the effect of discouraging investment in and engagement with business partners in sourcing and production markets beyond the European Union’s borders, for example by incentivizing termination of business relationships instead of longer-term efforts to jointly tackle risks.
Third, the Directive should put people – those affected and potentially affected by adverse impacts – at the centre of the due diligence process. As noted in the UNGPs, meaningful consultation with those at risk of harm – for instance, with workers and trade unions, local communities, people who use companies’ products and services, and human rights defenders – is vital to ensuring that human rights due diligence achieves its objectives. [...]
Finally, the Directive should be supported by meaningful accountability measures, including administrative supervision and civil liability. Both elements are essential to ensuring people have access to remedy when their rights are harmed, as OHCHR’s Accountability and Remedy Project has shown. Our webpage on mandatory human rights due diligence contains resources making these connections and covering design considerations for the enforcement of due diligence legislation.
OHCHR urges European Union institutions to work together to ensure that the forthcoming Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive is fully aligned with the UNGPs. By doing so, the European Union can ensure that this important directive follows the global consensus that the UN Human Rights Council expressed in 2011, and which has driven efforts by States, business, and civil society in the business and human rights field since.