France – SDG

Introduction [page 4]

… The United Nations Guiding Principles are a universal road-map supporting the creation of rules to make businesses accountable in the human rights field. Their unanimous adoption was a key step towards acting on the observation that, if human development is to be sustainable in a globalized world, both public and private actors must be responsible towards the society and planet they live and operate in. …


I- The State’s Obligation to Protect Human Rights

Introduction [page 12]

… In the diplomacy field, France appointed an ambassador for bioethics and corporate social responsibility (CSR) in 2008.

“With the challenges of sustainable development increasingly high on the international agenda, corporate social responsibility (CSR), defined as the ways in which businesses integrate Sustainable Development Goals into their operations by controlling their societal impacts and incorporating societal expectations, is currently being negotiated in a large number of forums.”…


The International Framework 

1. The United Nations (UN) [page 13]

… During the World Summit on Sustainable Development on 25 September 2015, the UN adopted the 2030 Agenda, a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs apply to all UN Member States, including France. They are global goals that aim to end poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change. This programme builds on the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Businesses are strongly encouraged to take measures to help attain these 17 goals, and to include their results in management reports.

France also chairs the Group of Friends of Paragraph 47 of the Rio+20 Declaration. This group promotes sustainable development reporting to better ensure that economic actors respect social, environmental, good governance and human rights standards. This group successfully advocated for reporting to be reinforced and extended to all SDGs. …

Actions Underway [page 16]

  • Working with the Group of Friends of Paragraph 47 of the Rio+20 Declaration, France supports the reinforcement of reporting requirements in the environmental, social and governance fields, especially with respect to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted on 25 September 2015.


The European Framework

8. Trade and Investment Agreements [pages 20-22]

… European trade agreements incorporate CSR and adherence to international conventions on labour and the environment. EU free trade agreements all include sustainable development chapters, which contain provisions on labour law and environmental protection. These chapters also refer to CSR. … Sustainable
development chapters in EU free trade agreements and investment agreements contain two further important provisions: one prevents parties to the agreement from lowering social and environmental standards to promote trade and attract investments; the other confirms States’ right to regulate in the social and environmental fields. …

… From the French perspective, addressing these issues in free trade agreements results in a number of weaknesses:

  • Secondly, although trade agreements include social and environmental standards and human rights clauses taken from the main international texts on labour laws and the environment, international organizations (the UNDP, ILO, etc.) are not involved in negotiations, despite the fact they carefully monitor the implementation of these texts (through regular reports by State parties, etc.). Instead, in trade agreements, a committee meeting at least once per year is charged with monitoring the implementation of sustainable development chapters. Civil society (NGOs and nonprofit organizations) can also act as whistleblowers if these regulations are breached, although this power is not institutionalized. Discussions with civil society are generally formalized by way of an annual forum or consultative committee bringing together stakeholders from different backgrounds. …

… In 2013, France issued a number of proposals to improve the way in which social and environmental standards were addressed in European trade agreements. These proposals are still relevant. These proposals focus on five main areas:

  1. Improving the evaluation of sustainable development chapters through rigorous impact assessments. These impact assessments must provide a clear overview of social and environmental standards in countries negotiating agreements with the EU. France has completed a major revision of the European manual used to write these impact assessments. This could lead to progress in the field.

  1. Improving the enforcement of existing sustainable development chapters by reinforcing implementation mechanisms. In November 2015, the French Minister of State for Foreign Trade sent a letter to European Commissioner Cecilia Malström asking the European Commission to investigate ways of including these chapters in dispute settlement mechanisms in trade agreements.
  2. Increasing the involvement of businesses by including CSR requirements in sustainable development chapters in trade agreements. Currently, these chapters contain a short paragraph on CSR, but this should be reinforced by adding references to key international texts on the subject (particularly the OECD Guidelines).

Actions to be Implemented 

  • Ensure that sustainable development chapters in EU free trade agreements are binding and enforceable under these agreements’ dispute settlement mechanisms.


The National Framework

9. The Protection of Human Rights and the Environment: Constitutional Guarantees [page 22]

… The charter [Charter for the Environment of 2004] acknowledges a number of rights, including “the right to live in a balanced environment which shows due respect for health” (Article 1), the obligation for public policies 23 to “promote sustainable development” and “reconcile the protection and enhancement of the environment with economic development and social progress” (Article 6), the right to “have access to information pertaining to the environment” and to “participate in the public decision-taking process likely to affect the environment” (Article 7), as well as the principles of precaution and prevention in the environmental field. …


II. Businesses’ responsibility to respect human rights


Actions to be implemented [page 38]

  • Help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

2. Training and Information for Businesses [page 39]

All staff members must be made aware of CSR. Because CSR involves protecting, developing and enhancing an organization’s human capital, it is dependent on training. Training is central to sustainable development, enabling people to adapt their skills to economic, professional and societal changes. Training efforts must also target appropriate populations. …

Footnote:  See the report RSE et dialogue social (CSR and social dialogue) published by the General Inspectorate of Social Affairs/General Council for the Environment and Sustainable Development in July 2013.

Existing Tools and Responsible Practices [page 40]

  • Some businesses include human rights modules in sustainable development training programmes for directors. Others offer specific training to purchasers, human resources staff, legal staff, etc.

5. Employee Representatives [page 43]

… In 2013, the CNCDH recommended “including stakeholders outside of the company in the term ‘interested parties’ used in Article L.238-1 of the Commercial Code so as to enable such persons to ask the judge hearing applications for interim relief to order the company to provide any information it might not have provided in its ‘sustainable development’ report.” …