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

Reporting [page 9]

“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.”

IV. Key areas for action

1.4 Enterprises in public ownership [page 18-19]

The Current situation

“The annual report on federal holdings lists about 700 enterprises in which the Federal Government has a direct or indirect stake. The Federal Government has direct holdings in 60 companies with business activities (as of 31 December 2014), 41 of these being direct majority holdings. Of the companies in which a direct majority stake is held, 13 have more than 500 employees. Among the matters covered by the report on federal holdings are the implementation of the Public Corporate Governance Code of the Federation, gender equality and the general sustainability of the listed enterprises.”

Measures

  • “The Federal Government is keen to increase the percentage of enterprises in which it holds a majority share that apply the German Sustainability Code, including its obligation to report on human rights. From the 2018 financial year, the report on federal holdings will list, in its chapter on sustainability, all internationally active enterprises with more than 500 employees in which the Federal Government has a majority shareholding that apply the German Sustainability Code or a comparable framework with compulsory reporting on human rights and those that do not.”

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

The current situation [page 20]

“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.”

2.2 Transparency and communication regarding corporate impacts on human rights [page 21]

“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.”

The current situation

“The number of enterprises that already present regular sustainability reports on a voluntary basis is steadily increasing. For example, the participants in the Global Compact, more than 300 in number, have committed themselves to presenting annual reports. The reports from German enterprises, and particularly from the large enterprises, are mostly based on the voluntary standards of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). The Federal Government has also supported the development of a German reporting standard in the German Sustainability Code (DNK). 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. Through their purchasing decisions, consumers influence the supply of sustainably produced and delivered goods and services. Instruments such as the information platform www.siegelklarheit.de (sustainability standards comparison tool), initiated by the Federal Government, create transparency and help consumers to adopt sustainable purchasing habits.”

Measures

  • “On 21 September 2016, the Federal Cabinet adopted the law transposing into German law Directive 2014/95/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2014 amending Directive 2013/34/EU as regards disclosure of non-financial information by certain large undertakings and groups (the CSR Directive).”

3. Available means of practical implementation support

Measures [page 23]

“I. Helpdesk and initial consultation

  • 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.”
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