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Corporate due diligence and corporate accountability

20-10-2020

This study analyses the potential European Added Value of a measure requiring companies to carry out due diligence on social, environmental and governance risks in their own operations and supply chain. There is evidence of human rights violations and environmental negative impacts related to business activities. This measure could increase firm compliance to international principles of responsible business conduct, increase access to remedy for victims, improve legal certainty and create a level ...

This study analyses the potential European Added Value of a measure requiring companies to carry out due diligence on social, environmental and governance risks in their own operations and supply chain. There is evidence of human rights violations and environmental negative impacts related to business activities. This measure could increase firm compliance to international principles of responsible business conduct, increase access to remedy for victims, improve legal certainty and create a level playing field for businesses. This study reviews possible sources of costs and benefits for companies and, based on original analysis, suggests that stronger environmental and social accountability practices could contribute to improving EU firms' performance. From a qualitative analysis, it suggests a potential significant impact in addressing risks of environmental damages and human rights violations in global value chains, thus supporting EU commitment to human rights and environmental protection.

Human Rights Due Diligence Legislation - Options for the EU

24-04-2020

The European Parliament (EP) has repeatedly underlined the need for stronger European requirements for companies to prevent human rights abuses and environmental harm and to provide access to remedies for victims. The debate — both in the EU institutions and in several Member States — has intensified surrounding due diligence obligations for companies throughout the supply chain. In this context, the EP Human Rights Subcommittee (DROI) requested two briefings on specific human rights related issues ...

The European Parliament (EP) has repeatedly underlined the need for stronger European requirements for companies to prevent human rights abuses and environmental harm and to provide access to remedies for victims. The debate — both in the EU institutions and in several Member States — has intensified surrounding due diligence obligations for companies throughout the supply chain. In this context, the EP Human Rights Subcommittee (DROI) requested two briefings on specific human rights related issues it should consider while preparing its position. The first briefing in this compilation addresses substantive elements, such as the type and scope of human rights violations to be covered, as well as the type of companies that could be subject to a future EU regulation. The second briefing discusses options for monitoring and enforcement of due diligence obligations, as well as different ways to ensure access to justice for victims of human rights abuses. The briefings offer a concise overview and concrete recommendations, contributing to the ongoing debate and taking into account the research undertaken on behalf of the European Commission.

Vanjski autor

Prof. Dr. Markus KRAJEWSKI, Beata FARACIK, Claire METHVEN O’BRIEN, Olga MARTIN-ORTEGA

Substantive Elements of Potential Legislation on Human Rights Due Diligence

24-04-2020

This briefing provides an overview of the existing legislative approaches to mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence and proposals by non-state actors, concerning the scope of potential European Union (EU) legislation on binding human rights due diligence (HRDD) obligations for companies. The briefing discusses key substantive elements of potential EU HRDD legislation including options for human rights covered by the due diligence requirement; types of violations; specific references regarding women ...

This briefing provides an overview of the existing legislative approaches to mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence and proposals by non-state actors, concerning the scope of potential European Union (EU) legislation on binding human rights due diligence (HRDD) obligations for companies. The briefing discusses key substantive elements of potential EU HRDD legislation including options for human rights covered by the due diligence requirement; types of violations; specific references regarding women and persons in vulnerable situations and the duties of companies to respect and protect human rights. It is recommended that a potential EU HRDD legislation should comprise all human rights and cover all types of violations. The legislation should refer to additional duties, which can be based on existing human rights treaties and instruments such as CEDAW, CRC, CRPD and UNDRIP. The legislation should cover all companies independently of their size and take a non-sector specific approach. Furthermore, the legislation should not apply solely to the company’s own activities, but also to its business relations including the value chain. Finally, the legislation should adopt a substantive due diligence model and require companies to engage actively in analysing, mitigating and remedying any adverse impacts on human rights based on their own activities and connected to them in their business relations.

Vanjski autor

Prof. Dr. Markus KRAJEWSKI, Beata FARACIK

EU Human Rights Due Diligence Legislation: Monitoring, Enforcement and Access to Justice for Victims

24-04-2020

This briefing explores options for monitoring and enforcement of European Union (EU) human rights due diligence legislation, and how such legislation should contribute to access to justice and remedy for victims of human rights abuses linked to the operations of businesses inside or operating from Member States (MS). The briefing reviews existing due diligence and disclosure schemes and considers the feasibility of specific options for monitoring, enforcement and access to remedy within a future ...

This briefing explores options for monitoring and enforcement of European Union (EU) human rights due diligence legislation, and how such legislation should contribute to access to justice and remedy for victims of human rights abuses linked to the operations of businesses inside or operating from Member States (MS). The briefing reviews existing due diligence and disclosure schemes and considers the feasibility of specific options for monitoring, enforcement and access to remedy within a future EU due diligence law. The briefing recommends that such legislation should require effective monitoring via company-level obligations, national and EU-level measures, including repositories of due diligence reports, lists of companies required to report, information request procedures, monitoring bodies and delegated legislation or guidance further elaborating on due diligence under the law. Regarding enforcement, the law should inter alia require MS to determine appropriate penalties for non-compliance and to establish enforcement rights for interested parties. Finally, on remedy, the law should, besides requiring companies to establish complaint mechanisms, provide for national and EU measures, including requirements that MS ensure effective means of remedy and redress for victims and establish or identify bodies to investigate abuses, initiate enforcement and support victims.

Vanjski autor

Claire METHVEN O’BRIEN, Olga MARTIN-ORTEGA

Free and fair trade for all?

21-11-2017

With its strategy paper entitled ‘Trade for all’ in 2015, the Commission launched an EU trade policy that focussed on values such as human rights, workers’ rights, environmental protection and sustainable development. The idea was that free trade should be fair for both consumers in Europe and for citizens elsewhere. This approach was pursued in bilateral trade negotiations and in legislative proposals on, for example, conflict minerals, dual-use goods or the investment court system. But by the end ...

With its strategy paper entitled ‘Trade for all’ in 2015, the Commission launched an EU trade policy that focussed on values such as human rights, workers’ rights, environmental protection and sustainable development. The idea was that free trade should be fair for both consumers in Europe and for citizens elsewhere. This approach was pursued in bilateral trade negotiations and in legislative proposals on, for example, conflict minerals, dual-use goods or the investment court system. But by the end of 2016 the tenor of the debate on international trade had changed, shifting the focus to national interests and fairness for consumers and producers at home. The UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU and the election of President Trump in the US, together with the expiry of the clause recognising China’s non-market economy status, contributed to this shift. The European Parliament has played a crucial role in shaping the direction of EU trade policy. While its 2015 resolution on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) set the values-based trade agenda, its resolutions in 2016 and 2017 on China’s market economy status and global value chains reflected the shift in values. The Commission is seeking to balance free and fair trade but new challenges lie ahead, notably in the EU’s neighbourhood: Russia, the Eastern Partnership, Turkey and the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Towards a binding international treaty on business and human rights

11-07-2017

With its extended value chains, economic globalisation has provided numerous opportunities, while also creating specific challenges, including in the area of human rights protection. The recent history of transnational corporations contains numerous examples of human rights abuses occurring as a result of their operations. Such corporations are known to have taken advantage of loose regulatory frameworks in developing countries, corruption, or lack of accountability resulting from legal rules shielding ...

With its extended value chains, economic globalisation has provided numerous opportunities, while also creating specific challenges, including in the area of human rights protection. The recent history of transnational corporations contains numerous examples of human rights abuses occurring as a result of their operations. Such corporations are known to have taken advantage of loose regulatory frameworks in developing countries, corruption, or lack of accountability resulting from legal rules shielding corporate interests. This situation has created a pressing need to establish international norms regulating business operations in relation to human rights. So far, the preferred approach has been 'soft', consisting of the adoption of voluntary guidelines for businesses. Several sets of such norms exist at international level, the most notable being the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Nevertheless, while such voluntary commitments are clearly useful, they cannot entirely stop gross human rights violations (such as child labour, labour rights violations and land grabbing) committed by transnational corporations, their subsidiaries or suppliers. To address the shortcomings of the soft approach, an intergovernmental working group was established within the UN framework in June 2014, with the task of drafting a binding treaty on human rights and business. After being reluctant at the outset, the EU has become involved in the negotiations, but has insisted that the future treaty's scope should include all businesses, not only transnational ones. The European Parliament is a staunch supporter of this initiative and has encouraged the EU to take a positive and constructive approach.

Structural reform support programme 2017-2020

16-06-2017

Structural reforms have been identified as crucial to accelerating economic recovery, boosting growth and reducing unemployment. In November 2015, the European Commission proposed to establish the Structural Reform Support Programme 2017-2020, to provide Member States with technical assistance in designing and implementing structural reforms. The proposed budget is €142.8 million, to be taken from existing technical assistance resources under the European Structural and Investment Funds. Building ...

Structural reforms have been identified as crucial to accelerating economic recovery, boosting growth and reducing unemployment. In November 2015, the European Commission proposed to establish the Structural Reform Support Programme 2017-2020, to provide Member States with technical assistance in designing and implementing structural reforms. The proposed budget is €142.8 million, to be taken from existing technical assistance resources under the European Structural and Investment Funds. Building on experience relating to reforms in Greece and Cyprus, the programme aims to improve administrative and institutional capacity, to facilitate better implementation of EU law, in particular the country-specific recommendations issued under the European Semester, more efficient use of EU funds and the introduction of growth-enhancing structural reforms. Agreement was reached in interinstitutional negotiations in February 2017, and the EP plenary vote took place in April. The adopted regulation (EU) 2017/825 was signed on 17 May and published in the Official Journal on 19 May 2017. Fourth edition. The ‘EU Legislation in Progress’ briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure.

Labour rights in Export Processing Zones with a focus on GSP+ beneficiary countries

15-06-2017

The European Union’s GSP+ scheme provides trade concessions to beneficiary countries and obliges them to ratify and effectively implement key international conventions on human rights and labour rights. The sectoral gains of GSP+ have thus far been concentrated on exports of apparel, textiles and processed fish. Such sectors are often located in Export Processing Zones (EPZs) where the governance of labour rights may differ from the rest of the country and fall below international legal standards ...

The European Union’s GSP+ scheme provides trade concessions to beneficiary countries and obliges them to ratify and effectively implement key international conventions on human rights and labour rights. The sectoral gains of GSP+ have thus far been concentrated on exports of apparel, textiles and processed fish. Such sectors are often located in Export Processing Zones (EPZs) where the governance of labour rights may differ from the rest of the country and fall below international legal standards. This study examines the apparel sectors of Pakistan, Mongolia and Sri Lanka and the processed fish sector of the Philippines. The importance of EPZs to exports under the GSP+ varies by country and sector. Only in Pakistan are EPZs legally exempt from rights relating to freedom of association and collective bargaining. But restrictions on these and other rights in practice remain widespread, and are not confined to EPZs. Efforts to promote labour rights through the GSP+ should focus on key export sectors benefitting from the scheme and consider EPZs alongside other sites of the supply chain where exploited workers are based.

EU flagship initiative on the garment sector

21-04-2017

After the 2013 Rana Plaza garment factory tragedy in Bangladesh, the European Commission pledged to table an EU-wide flagship initiative to boost responsible management of the garment industry. To date, this initiative has yet to be launched. A motion for a Parliament resolution, due to be voted at the April II part-session, calls on the Commission to put forward a legislative proposal and focuses, among other things, on introducing mandatory due diligence for the supply chains in the industry.

After the 2013 Rana Plaza garment factory tragedy in Bangladesh, the European Commission pledged to table an EU-wide flagship initiative to boost responsible management of the garment industry. To date, this initiative has yet to be launched. A motion for a Parliament resolution, due to be voted at the April II part-session, calls on the Commission to put forward a legislative proposal and focuses, among other things, on introducing mandatory due diligence for the supply chains in the industry.

Implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

06-01-2017

This study reviews the progress of implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) in non-EU countries, five years after their unanimous adoption by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011. Much progress has already been achieved, with i.a. relevant key international standards like OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises becoming aligned with the UNGPs, new tools being developed to provide guidance to governments and stakeholders and a basis being set ...

This study reviews the progress of implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) in non-EU countries, five years after their unanimous adoption by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011. Much progress has already been achieved, with i.a. relevant key international standards like OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises becoming aligned with the UNGPs, new tools being developed to provide guidance to governments and stakeholders and a basis being set for constructive discussion. This led to increased awareness and better understanding, building trust and engagement among various stakeholders. Yet, despite all efforts, business-related human rights abuse is still a serious problem. Further implementation of the UNGPs and related instruments is thus necessary, with special emphasis needed on access to remedy and justice for victims of business-related abuses. Less declaration and more real political will is needed, as states’ commitments to develop National Action Plans implementing the Guiding Principles have been far too slow to materialise, with only twelve NAPs being launched to date. Yet, the number of ongoing processes is promising, particularly in South America, although we have yet to see how meaningful and future action oriented their outcomes will be.

Vanjski autor

Beata FARACIK, Human Rights Expert, President of the Board, Polish Institute for Human Rights and Business, Poland

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