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Article

5 Aug 2022

Author:
Satsuki Kaneko & Masaya Kato, Nikkei Asia

Japan: Govt. to submit new draft HRDD guidelines, calling for maximum efforts to respect human rights across supply chains

" Japan seeks closer human rights scrutiny by companies to fight abuses" 5 August 2022

Japan will urge all companies to publicly issue plans for identifying, resolving and preventing human rights violations not only in-house, but across their suppliers, clients, joint ventures and investment portfolios.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will submit new draft guidelines to relevant government agencies at a meeting Friday. These will push all companies doing business in Japan to make "maximum efforts" to conduct due diligence on human rights.

The goal is to bring Japan up to par with other leading economies on human rights issues. The country has struggled to keep up with the U.S. and Europe in this area, and there is concern that continued inaction could force Japanese companies out of global supply chains.

The new guidelines will urge companies to monitor their supply chains and sales networks for forced and child labour, as well as for discrimination based on race, disability, religion and gender. They will highlight the disadvantages faced by foreign nationals, women, children, disabled individuals and indigenous people and ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities in the workplace, and urge companies to rectify any abuses against these groups.

The government will urge companies to take a four-step approach to potential violations: identify issues and their severity, mitigate the damage and prevent a recurrence, rate the effectiveness of their response, and release their findings to the public.

Companies will be urged to offer relief to victims when the companies fail to prevent or resolve abuses, such as through monetary and nonmonetary compensation.

The government will encourage companies to monitor potential issues at materials suppliers and clients and to stop dealings with those that fail to address the situation "as a final resort."

Companies will also be urged to consider suspending business ties in cases where the authorities are involved in potential human rights abuses -- a clause aimed at China's crackdown on its Uyghur minority in the Xinjiang region.

[...]

[...]Japan has come under fire for the treatment of foreign workers under the government-sponsored technical intern program. The new guidelines will address this issue as well, urging companies to stop deducting housing costs and utilities from interns' pay unless agreed upon in a formal contract.

The guidelines will not be legally binding, but companies will be able to reduce legal risks by abiding by them and the laws of the countries they do business in.

[...] Japan will consider eventually drawing up binding legislation against human rights abuses.

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