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This section sets out a simple and thorough process for any company, but particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, to get started with identifying its potential human rights impacts on those people directly affected by its activities, and those whose lives it touches through its relationships with suppliers or other parties. It provides you with tools and approaches to understand what your business already does to address these impacts, and where it can improve. By doing this, it helps you to take your first steps towards human rights due diligence.
It builds on and is complementing the DGCN/twentyfifty publication Five Steps towards Managing the Human Rights Impacts of your Business published in autumn 2015. The content has been based on management consultancy twentyfifty’s more than ten years experience of supporting companies to respect human rights, good practice guidance where it is available, and the lessons learned by companies in the Human Rights Peer Learning Group of the Global Compact Network Germany. Feedback from small and medium-sized companies, acting as peer reviewers, has been integrated.
The section is
structured along these 5 basic steps:
You can click on the sidebar on the right for further information on the individual steps. Under each step, the guide provides you with a set of suggested activities that you can try out and tailor to the needs of your business. The activities suggested are illustrated through examples from the fictional company Henel & Sorbier SARL (H&S).
If you are ready to take your first teps go ahead and jump right to step 1. If you need a bit more background information or convincing, take a look at the information below.
Technology and globalisation have enabled even small companies to source and sell across the globe. The longer and more complex business value chains get – the more removed businesses become from their impacts on people producing, transporting, selling or buying their products. Under these conditions, identifying the full range of impacts our business decisions can have on human rights, is no simple task.
For example, sourcing from countries such as Bangladesh where production costs are low helps companies to provide clothing at low prices to their customers – but the rapid growth in production and lax safety standards has led to severe impacts on thousands of workers. Most notably on those who lost their lives or were maimed in the Tazreen fire and Rana Plaza building collapse. Also in Europe, companies face human rights-related challenges such as ensuring gender equality in the workplace. Media reports have highlighted poor working conditions, especially for migrant workers, in the logistics, cleaning, meat processing or construction sectors. These examples show that businesses can impact human rights wherever they operate, including in countries with high levels of regulation. These and other incidents have triggered a growing public interest in how companies conduct their business across their value chains. Larger businesses with global operations and a strong brand identity are increasingly critiqued by media, consumers, civil society and investors on the basis of their impacts on human rights, and are passing on those expectations to small and medium sized businesses in their supply chain. Concerns about the need for more responsible business conduct in a globalised economy have led to the development of a global framework setting out for the first time a defined corporate responsibility to respect human rights.
The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011, set out the basic social expectation that businesses respect human rights, which means not to have a negative impact on human rights. Human rights provide a universally recognised benchmark against which governments and corporations are increasingly being publicly held to account by civil society. The UN Guiding Principles have already influenced the sustainability debate and EU and national policy making. Individual governments have drafted National Action Plans to implement them, and many businesses have committed to, and started, putting them into practice. Your business customers may already have started to ask questions about how you ensure your business respects human rights.
In a nutshell, respecting human rights means your business should treat all people affected by your operations, products and services with respect for their human dignity and basic freedoms. Companies are expected to ‘know and show’ that they respect human rights in their daily business practice. To deliver on the responsibility to respect requires embedding respect for human rights within the business through adequate policies, due diligence and remediation processes.
Companies are expected to proactively identify where they can or do have negative impacts on human rights and ensure they take adequate measures to prevent, mitigate and where needed remediate them. In essence, human rights due diligence is a proactive means for companies to systematically identify, assess, prevent and address harm to people – through business structures, policies, processes and, most importantly, the day-to-day ethical behaviour and decision-making of managers and employees. Embedding respect for human rights is an ongoing learning process that will look differently for each company, depending on the company’s size and structure, location, products, types of business relationships and the associated risk for having negative impacts – your risk profile.
The National Action Plan specifies the Federal Government's
expectations towards companies and state institutions with regard to the
implementation of human rights due diligence, presents support services to
foster the implementation of the NAP as well as planned follow-up measures.
The NAP details the following 5 core elements of human rights
The NAP sets an ambitious goal for German businesses: by 2020, at least 50 % of all enterprises based in Germany with more than 500 employees should have incorporated the outlined elements of human rights due diligence. Beginning in 2018 the Federal Government will begin a monitoring process with random samples from the target group. In the absence of adequate compliance, the Federal Government will consider further action, including mandatory legislative measures.
The 5 Steps towards managing the human rights impacts of your business that are presented in this section of the portal will help you to take the first steps towards human rights due diligence. In the Advanced Practitioners section, you can find more information on specific human rights risks associated with the Textile, ICT or Automotive sectors.The NAP-Helpdesk of the Federal Government provides further support and information to companies that seek to implement the requirements of the NAP.
The German NAP is part of a global momentum towards the regulation of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights. Ever since the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in 2011, the number of international standards and frameworks regulating the corporate responsibility to respect human rights has grown rapidly. If your business operates internationally, chances are high that it will have to meet the requirements of one or more of the following regulations:
National Action Plans for Business and Human Rights (NAPs): Since 2011 more than 15 states have passed National Action Plans for Business and Human Rights (amongst others Great Britain, USA, France, Denmark, Chile and Indonesia). In many other states all over the world, NAPs are currently under development. More information on the status and developments around NAPs can be found here.
The publication by Econsense “No way around due diligence” provides a detailed overview and comparison of the requirements of 11 selected national and international frameworks and standards on human rights due diligence.
There are clear business
benefits of being proactive in identifying and addressing your impacts on
people’s basic human rights, which can include but are not limited to:
One fine body…