The German NAP includes multiple reference to SMEs.

III. Federal Government expectations regarding corporate due diligence in respecting human rights [page 8-13]

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. …

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.”

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

“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.”


“…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.”


  • “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).”

IV. Key areas for action [page 13]

“It emerged from the process of dialogue and consultation on this Action Plan that the extent to which measures to be adopted to advance the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles would have to be binding would vary between these key areas. In addition to these measures, incentives and support services are to be created which would enable all participants, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, to implement the Guiding Principles successfully.”

2.1 Ensuring the protection of human rights in supply and value chains

The current situation [page 28-29]

“the G7 are to: …

  • in particular, assist small and medium-sized enterprises in developing a common understanding of due diligence and responsible supply-chain management.”

2.2 Transparency and communication regarding corporate impacts on human rights

The current situation [page 31]

“… Sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW) assesses the quality of sustainability reports from large enterprises and SMEs and draws up a league table for each of these categories. This ranking is intended to stimulate corporate competition in the realm of sustainability reporting and to highlight and propagate benchmarks for high-quality reporting.”

2.3 Business activity in conflict zones

Measures [page 33]

  • “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 [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.


III. Opportunities for training and dialogue

  • 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.”