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The German NAP includes a chapter on due diligence and reference is made to due diligence throughout the NAP.

III. Federal Government expectations regarding corporate due diligence in respecting human rights [page 7-12]

“With regard to corporate respect for human rights, the Federal Government expects all enterprises to introduce the process of corporate due diligence described below in a manner commensurate with their size, the sector in which they operate, and their position in supply and value chains. This applies especially when they operate in countries where the rule of law is not enforced or is only partly enforced. Such expectations are without prejudice to the fundamental duty of a state to guarantee the protection of human rights within its territory.

Scope and practical structuring of due diligence in the field of human rights

“The responsibility to exercise due diligence applies in principle to all enterprises, regardless of their size, the sector in which they operate, or their operational context within a supply or value chain with an international dimension. The nature and exercise of due diligence for any given enterprise should be commensurate with these factors; it should be possible for the enterprise to incorporate its due diligence obligations into its existing processes in an appropriate manner without the creation of undue bureaucratic burdens.

Enterprises should prevent and mitigate any adverse impact of their business activity on human rights. When due diligence in the realm of human rights is defined and exercised, consideration should be given to the beneficial effects of corporate activity and to the diverse perspectives of the company’s own employees, the relevant stakeholders and others who may be affected. Within large enterprises, these include the staff of the human resources, purchasing, compliance and sales divisions. From outside the enterprise, suppliers, customers and trade unions but also bodies from civil society, business organisations and governments should be involved. Particular attention should be given to the rights of their respective employees and to those of local populations who may be affected.

Depending on the size of the enterprise, the nature of its products or services, the potential risk of particularly adverse impacts on human rights and the operating context, the measures to be taken are likely to vary in scope. It may be appropriate to conduct certain elements of the process in combination with other enterprises within an association or industry, subject to compliance with antitrust legislation. 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.

The elements of human rights due diligence described in binding form in the following paragraphs are not to be understood as a rigid sequence. On the contrary, findings relating to one element should be used continually for the revision and development of the other elements so that learning processes can take place. There must be scope for the incorporation of present and future legal requirements for the exercise of human rights due diligence.”

Core elements of due diligence in the field of human rights

  • “a human rights policy statement
  • procedures for the identification of actual or potential adverse impact on human rights
  • measures to ward off potentially adverse impacts and review of the effectiveness of these measures
  • reporting
  • a grievance mechanism”

Policy statement

“With the aid of a policy statement, enterprises should state publicly that they are meeting their responsibility to respect human rights. This statement should be adopted by the senior management of the enterprise and be communicated both internally and externally. It should be used, on the one hand, to address human rights issues of particular relevance to the enterprise and/or the sector in which it operates, citing the international reference instruments in the field of human rights and, on the other hand, to describe the procedure used by the enterprise to exercise human rights due diligence. In particular, this includes the clear assignment of responsibilities within the enterprise, underpinned by the necessary training of staff employed in the relevant divisions. The statement should be continually revised and developed.”

Procedure for the identification of actual and potential adverse impacts on human rights

“Central to the exercise of due diligence is the establishment of a procedure that serves to identify, to prevent or to mitigate potentially adverse effects of corporate activity on human rights. It is not – or not only – a matter of considering risks to the company’s own business activity but is primarily about risks to the human rights of those who may be affected by corporate activity, such as employees of the enterprise itself or of other companies in the supply chain, local populations and customers.

The consideration of potentially adverse impacts on human rights is a continuous task that accompanies work processes and, in particular, is performed with a sectoral focus. It should take place when new divisions, products or projects are launched as well as in the context of existing business activities. When potential risks are examined, a distinction must be made between the following types of impact:

  • those generated directly by the enterprise itself,
  • those to which the enterprise contributes, for example through direct contractual relations with suppliers, and
  • those connected indirectly with the enterprise through its business relations, its business activity or its products or services even though no direct contractual relationship exists, for example in situations involving numerous intermediary dealers. Granting loans, issuing credit lines and providing other financial services to other banks, insurers or other financial service providers do not in themselves constitute a relationship in the above sense if those transactions cannot be unambiguously attributed to a particular business activity in the real economy.

This systematic approach to identifying key impact factors and risks is nothing new and is already part of established management systems and processes, as may be seen, for instance, in Annex I to Regulation (EC) No 1221/2009 on the voluntary participation by organisations in a Community eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS), which deals with the internal environmental review to be conducted by participating organisations.

The size of an enterprise, the sector to which it belongs and the nature of its business activity directly influence the risk that its operations will have an impact on human rights. The required depth and breadth of the risk assessment depends on these factors. An initial risk analysis on the part of an enterprise should be conducted for each division or each product category and possibly for each location too. The starting point may be a simple overview of the company’s main activities and of the value chains and business relations these activities entail. On the basis of this overview and with due regard to the international human rights standards enshrined in instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Human Rights, the ILO Core Labour Standards and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, potential risk areas can be identified. Contextual circumstances such as the political framework and the presence of vulnerable groups of people (indigenous populations, for instance) should be factored into the analysis. The choice of method and the assessment of risks can be made on the basis of the analysts’ own research, interviews in-house, in subsidiary enterprises and/or with business partners and input from external specialists.

With the aid of this analysis, enterprises should determine whether an in-depth review is needed. This is most likely to be the case if the risk of an adverse impact on the human rights of particular groups is particularly high and fuller information is required before any action can be taken. For this reason, the recognised problem areas should be ranked in order of priority.

The risk of a particularly adverse impact arises, for example, in cases where a large number of people may be affected or the potential impact would have serious, unforeseeable, or irreversible consequences. The in-depth review should at least include local dialogue with actually or potentially affected parties and recourse to both internal and external expertise in the field of human rights.”

Measures and effectiveness tracking

“On the basis of the results of the analysis, measures should be identified and incorporated into business activity. Such measures may, for example, comprise specialised training of particular employees in-house or with suppliers, adaptation of particular management processes, changes in the supply chain and participation in sectoral initiatives. So that potential or actual impacts can be properly addressed, enterprises should define clearly where competence lies for particular issues and establish the corresponding review mechanisms. Depending on the type of impact, an enterprise itself can initiate remedial measures. If the enterprise does not possess sufficient leverage to implement successful measures, it should cooperate with other players to increase its influence. Withdrawal from an area of business activity or from a location should only ever be a last resort in such situations. The enterprise should focus first and foremost on developing remedial measures. To this end, objectives should be formulated and be communicated internally and externally as the relevant measure dictates. With the aid of effectiveness tracking, the enterprise should regularly review the efficacy of the measures it has taken and, to this end, engage in dialogue with affected stakeholders.”

Reporting

“Enterprises should keep information at their disposal and communicate it, where appropriate, to external recipients in order to demonstrate that they are aware of the actual and potential impact of their corporate activity on human rights and are taking appropriate steps to address the situation. The form in which this information is communicated should be tailored to its recipients. Enterprises whose business activity poses a particularly high risk of adverse impacts should issue regular public reports on that subject. Such reporting may be done in the framework of the company’s existing reporting format or take the form of separate reports focused on human rights. At the same time, such reporting obligations should not impose disproportionate administrative burdens on the reporting companies or on the SMEs in their supply chains.”

Grievance mechanism

“For the early identification of (actual or potential) adverse impacts, enterprises should either establish their own grievance procedures or play an active part in external procedures. Such procedures may, for example, be established by sectoral associations. The mechanism should be structured to match the target group. Accordingly, the target group should be consulted when the procedure is being devised. When new mechanisms are established as well as when existing mechanisms are used, care should be taken to ensure that they provide a fair, balanced and predictable procedure which is accessible to all those who might be affected (for instance by eliminating linguistic or technical barriers). As an extra measure, consideration should be given to the creation of offices with which complaints can be lodged anonymously.

The procedure should provide for maximum transparency for all stakeholders and should comply with international human rights standards. Existing complaints offices within an enterprise or its environment should be screened for compliance with the criteria defined above.

The grievance mechanism of each enterprise and its whole process of corporate due diligence should be subjected to regular practice-based reviews to assess their effectiveness.”

Measures

  • The Federal Government expects all enterprises to introduce the processes described above in a manner commensurate with their size, the sector in which they operate and their position in supply and value chains. Their compliance will be reviewed annually from 2018. In the absence of adequate compliance, the Federal Government will consider further action, which may culminate in legislative measures and in a widening of the circle of enterprises to be reviewed (see chapter VI below).
  • The National Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Forum of the Federal Government, comprising representatives of the political and business communities, trade unions, civil society and academic professions will draw up an intersectoral “CSR consensus” paper on corporate responsibility in value and supply chains and present it to the Federal Government as a recommendation. One element of that paper, among other things, is to reinforce the expectation of a responsible management of due diligence in the realm of human rights as described in the present chapter. Further information is made publicly accessible online at csr-in-deutschland.de. The possibility to join the “CSR consensus” is open to all enterprises that operate in Germany. The list of companies that have joined will be updated continuously and made publicly available at www.csr-in-deutschland.de.
  • The aim is that at least 50% of all enterprises based in Germany with more than 500 employees will have incorporated the elements of human rights due diligence described in this chapter into their corporate processes by 2020. Enterprises which have not adopted particular procedures and measures should be able to explain why they have not done so (the ‘comply or explain’ mechanism). If fewer than 50% of the enterprises defined above have incorporated the elements of human rights due diligence described in chapter III into their corporate processes by 2020 and the target is thus missed, the Federal Government will consider further action, which may culminate in legislative measures. In this context, the Federal Government will also examine, in consultation with the National Regulatory Control Council, the necessity of the corporate compliance costs arising from this plan and will consider a widening of the number of enterprises to be reviewed, in order to potentially include enterprises with fewer employees in future assessments and subsequent additional [sic]”

1. Key areas for action [page 13]

In relation to the three pillars of the UN Guiding Principles, the following are the primary areas for action: …

  • effective exercise of corporate due diligence with regard to human rights …”

1.1 Basic rules of economic policy

Development policy

Measures [page 20]

  • “ The instruments of development policy relating to cooperation with business will be reviewed for compliance with the requirements of the UN Guiding Principles. In particular, the contractual clauses of the develoPPP.de programme are to be fleshed out to include the due diligence requirements with regard to human rights. …
  • The requirements set out in the UN Guiding Principles and in the National Action Plan, in particular in its chapter III, on due diligence with regard to human rights, also apply to the organisations that implement development policy, including bodies that provide financing for development. They also serve as a basis for further assessment and monitoring and, where appropriate, further development of the grievance procedures that state implementing organisations, including financing bodies, have already established. …”

Public procurement

Measures [page 22]

“The Federal Government will examine whether and to what extent binding minimum requirements for the corporate exercise of human rights due diligence can be enshrined in procurement law in a future revision. It will draw up a phased plan indicating how this aim can be achieved.”

1.2 State support

Subsidies

Measures [page 23]

“The Federal Government will examine to what extent the sustainability assessment for which the Subsidy Policy Guidelines provide is consistent with the requirements set out in the UN Guiding Principles and how enterprises receiving significant subsidies can be subjected to a future obligation to apply the elements of due diligence described in chapter III above.”

Export credits, investment guarantees and other instruments for the promotion of external trade

Measures [page 25]

  • “Better information and greater transparency will serve to draw corporate attention, as early as during the initiation stage of projects, to the great importance attached to human rights due diligence and to the OECD Guidelines. In particular, the Federal Government will extend its support for the affected enterprises in the form of information material.
  • In addition, it is planned to introduce human rights due diligence reports into the assessment procedures of the insurance instruments for foreign trade in cases where there is a high probability of serious implications for human rights. …
  • The detailed procedure for assessing applications for the provision of export credit guarantees, guarantees for direct investments abroad and untied loan guarantees will be further reinforced as regards respect for human rights; this will entail measuring the procedure against the specific requirements set out in the NAP. To this aim, human rights will be treated as a separate point in future project assessments. The aim is to ensure that enterprises which avail themselves of foreign trade promotion instruments exercise due diligence. In particular, this includes participation in grievance proceedings initiated against them before the German National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.”

2.1 Ensuring the protection of human rights in supply and value chains [page 28-30]

“Throughout the world, the expectations of consumers, civil society and trade unions in terms of product quality and transparency of production are rising. Their attention is increasingly focused on factors such as environmental protection and social and employment standards along manufacturers’ supply chains. In many cases these supply chains are not transparent, and it is difficult to assess the situation with regard to individual enterprises within the chain. This increases the risk of adverse impacts on human rights and on social, labour and environmental standards in host countries. These countries often lack an adequate legislative basis or state supervision and enforcement of compliance with existing laws.

The Federal Government nevertheless expects enterprises to discharge their responsibility to exercise due diligence as regards human rights and therefore to create and apply appropriate management instruments that minimise the risk of involvement in the generation of any adverse impact (see chapter III above).”

The current situation

In the framework of the German presidency of the G7 in 2015, the Federal Government was a driving force behind the successful proposal to include a chapter on responsible supply chains in the Leaders’ Declaration. In that chapter, the private sector is being urged to exercise due diligence with regard to human rights. Together with the Heads of State or Government of the other G7 nations, the Federal Chancellor declared the Government’s support for the promotion of sustainability standards in global supply chains, including decent working conditions. To this end, the G7 are to:

  • support efforts to set up substantive national action plans for the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles,
  • increase transparency within supply chains,
  • promote instruments for the identification and prevention of risks,
  • strengthen grievance mechanisms,
  • encourage best practices
  • and, in particular, assist small and medium-sized enterprises in developing a common understanding of due diligence and responsible supply-chain management.

The Partnership for Sustainable Textiles, which was initiated by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, has established an obligation to comply with sustainability standards and to guarantee corporate due diligence in the textile and clothing sector. All members of the Partnership are required to pursue its social and environmental objectives. They submit to a review process, which is conducted by an independent third party and is designed to bring about continuous improvement. Individual schedules of measures (road maps) are compiled annually by all members; the first of these is to be produced by the end of January 2017. A robust sanctions regime and regular reporting on the implementation of the road maps will ensure credibility and transparency. The Textile Partnership creates a reference framework and an independent review system of international scope.”

Measure

  • “The Federal Government will publish a study identifying high-risk sectors and regions of particular relevance to the supply and value chains of German business. On the basis of this study, with the Federal Government in a moderating role, sector-specific guides to the exercise of human rights due diligence and examples of best practice will be drawn up in cooperation with the relevant business associations and with the aid of dedicated multi-stakeholder forums. …
  • By means of the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles, the Federal Government supports a multi-stakeholder initiative combining voluntary and compulsory elements. The Textile Partnership is designed to comply with the UN Guiding Principles. The aim is to have 75% of the German textile and clothing market signed up to the Textile Partnership by 2018. The Partnership should serve as a model for the definition of due diligence requirements in other industries.
  • The “Round Table on Human Rights in Tourism”, a model initiative for the development of a specific sectoral understanding of due diligence with regard to human rights, will receive increased financial support from the Federal Government.”

2.2 Transparency and communication regarding corporate impacts on human rights [page 30]

“Transparency requirements for corporate activity are an elementary component of due diligence with regard to human rights. These requirements are not limited to formal sustainability reporting but also entail willingness to engage in open dialogue with consumers, customers and actual or potential stakeholders and to share information on request.

2.3 Business activity in conflict zones [page 32-33]

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.

The European Commission has presented a proposal for a regulation setting up a Union system for supply chain due diligence self-certification of responsible importers of tin, tantalum and tungsten, their ores, and gold originating in conflict-affected and high-risk areas. Based on the aforementioned OECD guide, the Commission’s draft regulation would establish a voluntary undertaking to observe due diligence rules within supply chains when importing the minerals referred to above so as to ensure that proceeds from their sale are not used to fund armed struggles in conflict zones or other high-risk areas. The European Parliament, on the other hand, expressed itself in favour of a binding instrument for downstream operators, that is to say along the whole value chain. A basic compromise has now been reached between the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission on a binding instrument focused on the upstream area, i.e. the supply chain. Further details will now have to be negotiated in the context of the trialogue conducted by the EU institutions.”

Measures

“The Federal Government is pursuing the aim of preventing the use of proceeds from the sale of tin, tantalum and tungsten, of their respective ores and of gold to fund armed struggles in conflict zones and other high-risk areas. It is committed to the establishment of binding due diligence rules, which should be proportionate and should not entail unnecessary red tape, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises.”

3. Available means of practical implementation support

Measures [page 35-36]

“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. …
  1. 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.”

4.2 National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines [page 39]

“Among other things, the NCP is responsible for complaints of insufficient respect for human rights and of insufficient consideration for human rights in the exercise of companies’ due diligence as defined in the OECD Guidelines.”

V. Ensuring policy coherence [page 40]

“The Federal Government will continue to press in global as well as other forums for a common understanding of due diligence.”

VI. Monitoring [page 41]

“The National Action Plan marks the starting point of a process that will be continuously updated and developed. The process will be shaped by the implementation of the measures for which this Plan provides as well as by a comprehensive procedure for monitoring the implementation of these measures by all players.

To this end, the Federal Government is planning, subject to budgetary approval, the immediate execution of the following steps: …

  • The interministerial committee will verify the implementation and coherence of the adopted measures and drive forward the development of the NAP implementation process. The main areas of activity to come under its scrutiny will be the measures relating to the state duty to protect (public procurement, promotion of external trade, etc.) and the fleshing-out of due diligence obligations (chapter III above), including the planned definition of sectoral specifications and the corresponding support services. …
  • Progress in the corporate implementation of the elements of human rights due diligence described in chapter III above will be reviewed by means of an annual survey conforming to current scientific standards, beginning in 2018. The survey will be conducted on the basis of a representative sample to establish the number of enterprises that have introduced the elements of due diligence listed in chapter III above and will also include qualitative interviewing on the substantive depth of these measures and the challenges encountered during their implementation in enterprises. The yardstick for this review will be the objectives formulated in chapter III.
  • On this basis, the review will establish whether at least 50% of all German-based enterprises with more than 500 employees have incorporated the elements of human rights due diligence described in chapter III into their business processes by 2020. The review will also include a ‘comply or explain’ mechanism, whereby enterprises that are not implementing particular procedures and measures can explain why this has not been happening. An updated status report will be produced in preparation for a revision of the 2016 – 2020 National Action Plan.”
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