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National & regional movements for mandatory human rights & environmental due diligence in Europe

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, Published on: 22 May 2019

Initiatives for mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence in Europe (non-exhaustive), last updated 3 July 2020

This chart is part of our Mandatory Due Diligence portal.

Country

Type of initiative

Summary

Government & parliament steps

Austria

Civil society movement & MP initiative / draft law

Civil society including the Network on social responsibility of corporations (NeSoVe) is calling for a mandatory human rights due diligence law. Also, in July 2018, and again in May 2020, the Social Democratic Party submitted a draft bill on social responsibility in the garment sector to the Austrian parliament.

The draft bill on social responsibility in the garment sector was referred to the relevant parliamentary committee but deliberations have not yet started.

Belgium

Civil society movement

In April 2019, a group of civil society organisations published an open letter calling for a Belgian law mandating companies to conduct human rights due diligence. In June 2020, the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies published a report looking at options for mandatory due diligence in Belgium.

In a December 2019 speech, Belgium's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Development Cooperation said he would support a mandatory human rights due diligence law at EU-level.

Denmark

MP initiative with civil society, trade union, consumer & company support

In January 2019, three Danish political parties put forward a parliamentary motion that calls on the Government to introduce a bill on human rights due diligence for all large, as well as companies in high-risk sectors. The motion is supported by >100 NGOs, FH Danish Trade Union Confederation, The Danish Consumer Council as well as the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk.

 

European Union 

Sector-specific regulation, civil society movement & MEP initiative

In March 2019, the Responsible Business Conduct Working Group, an informal, cross-party group of MEPs, launched a Shadow EU Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct, including proposed actions on mandatory due diligence. In October 2019, more than 80 civil society organisations and trade unions launched a call for EU-wide human rights and environmental due diligence legislation (over 100 as of December 2019).

Adopted in 2017, the EU Conflict Minerals Regulation imposes due diligence obligations on EU importers of tin, tantalum and tungsten, their ores, and gold. The rules will become binding in 2021. Under the EU Timber Regulation traders that place timber on the EU market are required to exercise due diligence. In February 2020, the EU Commission published a study on regulatory options for broad due diligence legislation at EU level. In April 2020, the European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, announced that the Commission commits to introducing rules for mandatory corporate environmental and human rights due diligence in 2021. Adopted in May 2020, the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 includes a reference to this initiative and the EU Communication on post-COVID recovery states the Commission will put forward a new initiative on sustainable corporate governance in 2020. The German EU Council Presidency programme references a commitment to an EU action plan on strengthening corporate social responsibility in supply chains.  

Finland

Civil society movement with company & trade union support

In September 2018, a coalition of over 140 civil society organisations, companies and trade unions launched a campaign calling for mandatory human rights due diligence.

The new Social Democrat-led Finnish government commits to mandatory human rights due diligence in its official programme. According to the programme, released in June 2019, the government will conduct a survey with the goal of adopting a national law on human rights due diligence. The government programme also includes a commitment to promoting due diligence legislation at the EU level.

France

Approved law & civil society action

Enacted in 2017, the duty of vigilance law mandates large French companies to publish and implement a vigilance plan in order to identify and prevent human rights risks linked to their activities. A group of NGOs including Action Aid, Les Amis de la Terre France, Amnesty, Terre Solidaire, Collectif Éthique sur l’Étiquette and Sherpa (members of Forum Citoyen pour la RSE) is conducting ongoing assessments of companies’ existing vigilance plans. In addition, CCFD-Terre Solidaire and Sherpa, with the support of Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, launched a website to identify companies subject to the law and make accessible published vigilance plans. 

The National Assembly adopted the duty of vigilance law in 2017. 

Germany

Draft legal proposal & civil society movement

In 2016, the Green Party presented a motion to the parliament on mandatory human rights due diligence for companies. The same year, a coalition of scholars and NGOs including Amnesty, Bread for the World, Germanwatch and Oxfam presented a legal proposal for  mandatory human rights due diligence. In September 2019, a coalition of 64 civil society organisations launched a campaign calling for a supply chain law, and in February 2020, the coalition published a legal opinion on key elements of a possible law.

In its coalition agreement on the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, the Government states it will consider introducing legislation if by 2020 less than 50 percent of German companies with over 500 employees have human rights due diligence processes in place. In February 2019, German media reported on a draft legal proposal developed by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The proposal is yet to be discussed by other government ministries. In December 2019, he and the Federal Minister for Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) announced they will draft a human rights due diligence proposal. On 25 June 2020, German media reported on the draft key points.

Italy

Civil society action

Human Rights International Corner has published an overview of Law 231/2001 on the administrative liability of legal entities and its implications in relation to business and human rights, as well as a report on the strengths and weaknesses of the law as a model for mandatory due diligence.

Under its National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, the Government has committed to a review of existing law to assess legislative reform introducing human rights due diligence for companies.

Ireland

Civil society action

Ahead of the Irish elections in 2020, Trócaire, the Catholic bishops overseas development agency, called on all political parties to introduce mandatory due diligence and support a UN binding treaty.

 

Luxem-bourg

Civil society movement

In March 2018, a coalition of 16 civil society organisations launched an initiative calling for the introduction of a duty of vigilance for companies headquartered in Luxembourg.

The 2018 coalition agreement commits the Government to supporting initiatives to strengthen the human rights responsibilities of companies.

Nether-lands

Approved law & civil society movement

Civil society such as the MVO Platform has welcomed the adoption of the child labour due diligence law in May 2019. However, NGOs have also been calling on the Government to investigate the possibility of broad due diligence legislation and thus welcome and feed into the policy development process started in late 2019 (see right column).

In May 2019, the Senate voted to approve the child labour due diligence law which requires companies to identify, prevent and assess the issue of child labour in their supply chains. Following its adoption, the Government moved to establish a formal policy development process to redesign Dutch Responsible Business Conduct policy, including broad mandatory due diligence measures. According to the Government's timeline (in Dutch), a decision on new policy measures is due in autumn 2020 and is expected to involve a legislative proposal, to be presented to Parliament. Political parties in Parliament are also working on their own initiatives for comprehensive mandatory due diligence regulation. In March 2020, the Christian Union (CU) presented an outline for a broad due diligence law, and in June 2020, four political parties led by CU submittedproposal for mandatory due diligence legislation in parliament.

Norway

Civil society movement & MP initiatives

In January 2019, the Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment presented a letter to the parliament’s Justice Committee stressing the need for human rights due diligence legislation. A wide civil society alliance calls for a human rights law for businesses that moves beyond potential transparency requirements (see right column).

The Norwegian Government, based on two parliamentary resolutions, appointed an expert committee in August 2018 to investigate a potential law on ethics information and a right to information on companies' human rights impacts. In November 2019, the committee published a draft act on supply chain transparency, the duty to know and due diligence. Also, the parliament’s Justice Committee has recently discussed a potential Norwegian Modern Slavery Act, as proposed by an opposition MP (the Forum’s letter was an input to this debate).

Sweden

Civil society movement

In May 2019, CONCORD Sweden’s Working Group for Business & Human Rights (14 members) has published a position paper calling for the Government to investigate the possibility of mandatory human rights due diligence.

In March 2018, the Swedish Government Agency for Public Management released a report recommending that the Government look into the possibility of mandatory human rights due diligence.

Switzer-land

Draft law as formal response to civil society initiative

The Swiss Responsible Business Initiative, launched in 2015 by a coalition of civil society organisations, seeks to introduce an article to the Swiss constitution making human rights due diligence mandatory for companies.

The initiative is currently under review in parliament – in June 2019, the National Council (lower house) reaffirmed its decision to pursue an indirect counter-proposal including a due diligence obligation; the Council of States (upper house) has so far rejected the initiative as well as a substantive counter-proposal.

United Kingdom

Civil society movement

In April 2019, a group of civil society organisations launched a campaign calling for a mandatory human rights due diligence law. A report published in February 2020 considers the legal feasibility of introducing into UK law a corporate duty to prevent human rights harms. In March 2020, an MP put forward an amendment to the Environment Bill which would require the Government to publish a draft bill on environmental & human rights due diligence.

In April 2017, the UK Joint Committee on Human Rights released a report in which it recommended the introduction of a duty of care on all companies. 

Further sources

Contact

  • Ms. Saskia Wilks, EU/Western Europe Researcher, wilks [at] business-humanrights.org
  • Mr. Johannes Blankenbach, EU/Western Europe Researcher & Representative, blankenbach [at] business-humanrights.org