Japan: LDP and Keidanren differ on mandatory human rights due diligence
"「ユニクロ」は捜査に発展。日本企業に人権対策を義務づけるべきか、自民党と経団連に温度差" 11 July 2021
[Japanese-to-English translation: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre]
In May, a project team of the Liberal Democratic Party put together a proposal to encourage Japan to legislate human rights due diligence and submitted it to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. On the other hand, the Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), of which large corporations are members, is cautious, saying that it should not be made mandatory immediately.
- LDP PT Chairperson: "Japan must participate in the creation of international rules"
The Liberal Democratic Party's Project Team on Human Rights Diplomacy (PT) compiled its first set of recommendations in late May, after holding a total of 14 meetings. It calls on the government to start discussing the formulation of guidelines and legislation for human rights due diligence as "matters to be considered and realized in the short term."
Norikazu Suzuki, a member of the House of Representatives and former Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, is the chairman of the project and calls for urgent legalization in order for Japan to participate in the creation of international rules on human rights.
"After the coup d'état in Myanmar, NGOs and other organizations took a hard look at Japanese companies that do business with the military side. In an age when Japanese companies can no longer exist without global activities, it is a minimum requirement for corporate activities to look at the supply chain from a human rights perspective."
- Keidanren reluctant to legislate
On the other hand, the Keidanren, whose members include 1,461 of Japan's large corporations, is cautious about legislating human rights due diligence. When the government created a national action plan, it expressed that it should not be made mandatory immediately.
In a fiscal 2018 survey by the Business Policy Forum, of 132 domestic companies working on human rights due diligence, only five said that disclosure of information on human rights due diligence "should be made mandatory immediately"; just under 40 percent said it "should be made mandatory in the future, but it is not appropriate at this stage.
Tomoko Hasegawa, managing director of Keidanren, argues that leaving it to the autonomy of companies will help solve the problem.
"In a survey of member companies conducted by Keidanren in 2020, 36% of the companies were working on human rights due diligence. The challenge is to bring this figure closer to 100%. However, Keidanren believes that the promotion of information disclosure should be implemented in stages, after verifying the necessity and effectiveness."
"If human rights due diligence and information disclosure are mandated in a uniform manner, there is a risk that only a uniform, check-the-box approach will be taken, despite the fact that a wide range of risks actually exist. I am concerned that this will be a factor that hinders companies from solving substantive and innovative issues."
"However, when conducting human rights due diligence, various kinds of support are needed. In order to understand the situation in overseas supply chains, it is very important to have information on what kind of human rights risks exist in the country, what the laws are in that country, and what kind of support can be obtained locally. We are requesting such support from METI and MOFA."