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Netherlands

1. Introduction [page 5]

“The Netherlands encourages the business community to respect human rights. The aim is to prevent companies from abusing human rights either directly or within supply chains.”

2. Current policy [page 9]

“The Netherlands already pursues an active policy to promote respect for human rights by the business community and to prevent companies from abusing human rights either directly or in their supply chains. The government expects companies operating abroad, in particular in countries where legislation or enforcement falls short, to pursue the same standards for CSR and human rights as they would in the Netherlands. …

Companies bear a social responsibility for what goes on in their supply chains and for ensuring fair work under satisfactory conditions of employment. To prevent abuses in terms of working conditions, child labour, environment, corruption and human rights in their supply chains, the government expects companies to act in accordance with the OECD guidelines wherever possible.”

3.1 An active role for the government [page 14-15]

“As the government pointed out in its policy letter ‘CSR Pays Off’ and as is discussed under point 3 below on due diligence, the challenge in the next few years will be timely identification of risks in Dutch companies’ supply chains. The government wants to work on structural solutions within international chains, not incident management.”

The OECD Guidelines Proactive Agenda

“The Proactive Agenda was added to the OECD Guidelines in 2011 to elucidate the guidelines for specific sectors or situations, together with all the countries involved. In the context of the Agenda, the OECD is working with the financial sector on clarifying application of the guidelines. It is also working with the various interested parties in the extractive sector on a guide to using stakeholder engagement in their CSR policies. With the FAO, it is working on a guide for the agriculture sector on fulfilling CSR requirements such as responsible investment in agriculture supply chains and land. In the spring of 2014 a high level forum will be organised with the ILO on CSR in the textile sector. A multi-stakeholder approach to conflict minerals has proved highly successful in preventing funds being channelled into the civil war in the DCR.”

3.2 Policy coherence [page 17-18]

Sustainable procurement policy

“Under the social conditions of national sustainable procurement policy, companies supplying the government with goods and services are required to respect human rights. These social conditions have been included in all central government EU contract award procedures since 1 January 2013, and the municipal, provincial and water authorities are being encouraged to apply them, too. Suppliers can fulfil these conditions in various ways – by joining a reliable multi-stakeholder supply chain initiative (quality mark or certification institute) or, if they have any doubts, carrying out a risk analysis.”

3.3 Clarifying due diligence [page 21]

“Due diligence is a core concept of the UN Guiding Principles, as set out by Professor Ruggie. It may be defined as follows:

  • Externally communicating how the business has addressed adverse impacts: it is possible that these impacts are not the direct result of a business’s own operations, but are caused elsewhere within the supply chain. …

Companies must take account of the potential social impact of their activities. Due diligence is thus the most important new element in the CSR policies of companies operating internationally and/or within international supply chains.”

3.4 Transparency and reporting [page 28-31]

Reporting

During the consultations, attention was again requested for the Production and Supply Chain Information (Public Access) Act (WOK). With this legislation, consumers, members of the public, civil society organisations and other parties who ask companies about the origins of their products and services would be assured of an answer. On the basis of the results of a study by Panteia/EIM15 in 2009, the government then in office concluded that implementation of the WOK was technically feasible, but that it would entail high costs for the business community, and its enactment would probably run into international legal obstacles.

In this light, the government does not feel that this is the right time to enact such legislation, and points to the increasing availability of information on supply chains through instruments such as the Sustainable Trade Initiative and the Sector Risk Analysis project. The SER also devotes considerable attention to promoting supply chain transparency and responsibility in its ICSR committee. Moreover, it is possible to report to the NCP on companies that are insufficiently transparent for a constructive dialogue on CSR.

3.5 Scope for Remedy [page 34-36]

Non-judicial mechanisms

“There is no essential difference between the nature of the statements the various NCPs may issue in response to complaints. The Danish NCP is the only NCP entitled to carry out investigations on its own volition into the involvement of companies in abuses in international supply chains. No criteria have been laid down for starting an investigation. When asked, the Danish NCP was unable to say on what grounds it would take the initiative to launch an investigation. To date, no such investigation has been launched.

The government is not in favour of the Dutch NCP having similar, unconditional powers to carry out investigations. The people interviewed also expressed little support for this idea. The Dutch NCP may carry out additional investigations in response to complaints. If the NCP were entitled to carry out its own investigations, the business community would ultimately lose confidence in its impartiality. Moreover, if an issue were to be investigated on the NCP’s own volition, thus not in response to a complaint by an interested party, there would be no official ‘other party’ for the mediation procedure with the company in question.

It should be noted here that, in practice, the Dutch NCP already facilitates dialogue on CSR at the request of civil society organisations and/or companies, and thus not in response to a formal complaint submitted in accordance with the OECD Guidelines. The aim of those requesting facilitation is to bring about improvements, sometimes with a view to forestalling submission of an official complaint to the NCP.

Proactive investigation of possible risks in the Dutch business community’s supply chains now takes place by means of Sector Risk Analyses, as described above. Voluntary CSR agreements will be concluded with a number of sectors on the basis of these analyses. In their letter requesting advice on how effective CSR agreements can be concluded with business sectors, the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation and the Minister of Economic Affairs asked the SER to devote explicit attention to the role the NCP could play as facilitator or dispute settlement mechanism.“

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