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III. Federal Government expectations regarding corporate due diligence in respecting human rights

Scope and practical structuring of due diligence in the field of human rights [page 8]

“Small and medium-sized enterprises in particular should make use of the advisory and support services to be offered by the Federal Government and business associations under the National Action Plan. The expertise of organisations within civil society and trade unions should also be brought to bear.”

1.3 State support

Measures [page 25]

  • “The Federal Government will ensure that human rights, which have hitherto been an element of the environmental and social impact assessment, are given more specific consideration and a higher profile in assessment procedures. It will measure the existing assessment procedures against the requirements set out in chapter III above and make adjustments where necessary. One particular priority will be measures for better identification of risks to human rights as part of the assessment process.”

2.3 Business activity in conflict zones [page 32]

The current situation

“An important contribution to these efforts is being made by the deliberations, which Germany is backing, on what are known as ‘conflict minerals’, an intense discussion being conducted within both the OECD and EU frameworks. In 2011, the OECD published a guide to corporate responsibility along supply chains in which minerals from conflict zones are traded and handled. The guide, entitled OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas, has also been available in German since 2015. The primary aim of the Guidance is to curb the funding of armed conflicts from the proceeds of trade in raw materials; in addition, compliance with its recommendations would help to prevent serious human rights violations, especially child labour.”

3. Available means of practical implementation support [page 33-36]

The Federal Government would like to assist small and medium-sized enterprises in particular in fulfilling the extensive corporate due-diligence requirements and expectations relating to human rights (see chapter III above).

The current situation

Numerous measures and services are already available for this purpose. A selection of existing and planned measures is described in some detail below:

  • The National CSR Forum, which was launched by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in 2009, consists of currently 41 members – high-ranking experts from business, trade unions, non-governmental organisations and research bodies as well as representatives of the participating federal ministries. Among the main tasks of the National CSR Forum are the provision of advice to the Federal Government on the continuing development of the national CSR strategy and the formulation of recommendations on specific issues. In 2010, the National CSR Forum, with the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in the lead role, discussed and developed a National CSR Action Plan. The measures and activities that have been carried out in the framework of the Action Plan have reached numerous enterprises. In a decision taken on 30 August 2012, the National CSR Forum expressed its support for “a smart mix of voluntary policy measures and, where necessary, complementary regulation” (2012, p. 11). Through the ESF promotion scheme for “social responsibility in SMEs”, more than 3,000 SMEs received advice and training in social responsibility, and regional CSR networks have been made permanent. Numerous specialised events have been staged in the framework of the CSR Forum to advise enterprises on the exercise of due diligence.
  • The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development makes information and guidance available to enterprises of various sizes from various sectors, particularly by funding the work of the German Global Compact Network. Ever since 2004, the Ministry has been promoting the Network in close consultation with the Federal Foreign Office. The Network unites the German signatories of the UN Global Compact, whose core principles include respect for fundamental human rights and labour standards. As a business-driven multi-stakeholder forum, the Network has been providing training courses for management staff in the exercise of corporate responsibility for human rights ever since 2008.
  • The Agency for Business and Economic Development of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development was expanded in 2015/2016 and provides advice on development-related support opportunities and information services for enterprises operating in developing and newly industrialised countries. In addition, ever since 2009 the ILO has been offering the services of a help desk to assist multinational companies in the practices of applying international labour standards and to advise them on the current legal situation in individual countries.
  • Ever since 2012, the Federal Government has been supporting the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre information platform. In 2014, it succeeded in having a German-language version of the platform made available. The website provides information on human rights challenges by region, issue and risk group and even by enterprise.
  • The Chambers of Industry and Commerce are already very active in providing enterprises with guidance. German Chambers of Commerce Abroad can inform enterprises of the current legal and de facto situation in foreign countries. In some countries, the Chambers, in cooperation with German development cooperation agencies, provide facilities known as “CSR centres of excellence”, which provide advice on CSR measures.”

Measures

I. Helpdesk and initial consultation

  • The Federal Government will significantly increase the reporting and consultation output of German diplomatic and consular missions in collaboration with the other pillars of external-trade promotion, namely the Chambers of Commerce Abroad and Germany Trade and Invest. To this end, basic and continuing training will also be focused more sharply on advisory skills in the field of business and human rights.
  • Within the Agency for Business and Economic Development of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, which operates as a one-stop business advisory centre on development-related support opportunities in developing and newly industrialised countries, a helpdesk on business and human rights will be created. The core task of the helpdesk will be to provide initial consultation on request or referral and to raise awareness of the issues involved. The Agency serves enterprises and business organisations as a first stop, informing them of existing services, contacts and networks. The services of the Agency are broadened and underpinned by the provision of advice in the framework of existing networks operating at the interface between business and development cooperation, such as “EZ-Scouts” and “ExperTS”.

II. Information services and best practices

  • The Federal Government CSR Award recognises exemplary enterprises for their contributions to sustainability. It also promotes a learning process, since each enterprise is scored on the basis of its individual contribution to sustainability. An additional special prize is to be awarded in future for responsible supply chain management.
  • The website http://www.csr-in-deutschland.de is currently being developed into the central Federal Government gateway to content on corporate social responsibility. Information on the main activities and measures of the Federal Government is to be posted there in a coherent whole-of-government format.
  • Continued efforts will be made to increase the availability of information in German through the production of guides and through support for the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre.

III. Opportunities for training and dialogue

  • The range of advisory and training services offered by the German Global Compact Network will be expanded and supplemented by services such as a graduated range of webinars and other formats relating to specific elements of human rights due diligence just like practical questions and answers.
  • As the third-largest contributor to the International Labour Organization, the Federal Government is a major sponsor of the support services offered by the ILO. The ILO Helpdesk for Business on International Labour Standards assists enterprises in applying international labour and social standards correctly. Besides an informative website, the Helpdesk also provides prompt replies to individual queries on a confidential basis as well as training courses.
  • In cooperation with business networks, ‘practice days’ for SMEs are offered nationwide. These sessions provide support, information and exchanges with other enterprises on responsible supply chain management and high-quality sustainability reporting.

IV. Creating a global level playing field

  • In multilateral forums such as the G20, the EU and ASEM and in close cooperation with international organisations such as the ILO, the OECD and the UN, the Federal Government will press for the creation of a global level playing field with regard to terms of competition. To this end, the G7 leaders decision on sustainable supply chains will be further fleshed out with a view to arriving at a common global understanding of due diligence and of sustainable supply chain management.”
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