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Netherlands

3.4 Transparency and reporting [page 28-31]

“During the consultations, various parties pointed out that companies should be encouraged and/or required to report on their human rights policy and the results achieved. At the same time, they stressed that level of reporting should be proportionate to what it yields, and that account needs to be taken of the administrative burden on the business community.

The UN Guiding Principles devote attention to the importance of transparency and reporting. The responsibility to respect human rights calls not only for internal processes to identify and mitigate risks of adverse impacts (‘knowing’), but also for communication on these risks with the parties directly involved and other stakeholders, such as investors (‘showing’). In this way, companies can account for their policies and facilitate dialogue with all stakeholders.”

Reporting

“As it points out in its policy letter ‘CSR Pays Off’, the government supports the European Commission’s proposal to amend accounting legislation in relation to non-financial reporting. Large companies will be required to disclose information on human rights, environmental matters, social and employee-related matters and corruption. The proposal affects some 600 companies in the Netherlands, which together account for considerable social impact. The new Directive will ensure a level playing field at European level. What is more, it will place a limited administrative burden on the business community, since it is non-prescriptive as regards information provision, and works on the basis of the ‘apply or explain’ principle.

The Netherlands pursues an active policy of encouraging social reporting through the transparency benchmark. This benchmark is carried out every year on the instructions of the Ministry of Economic Affairs to give the 500 largest Dutch companies a rating for transparency on sustainability and CSR. The benchmark’s criteria have been updated and brought in line with international developments such as the UN Guiding Principles and the European Commission’s proposal for a new Accounting Directive. The Transparency Benchmark will now apply to the 600 companies referred to in this proposal.

The government supports the growing number of international initiatives to promote transparency by means of tax disclosure. It takes an active part in discussions in the EU on a possible expansion of obligatory tax disclosure by companies operating internationally to include payments to countries where they are active. It urges attention for possible adverse economic consequences of making this information public, and for close harmonisation with existing transparency requirements.

The government continues to call companies’ attention to the need to comply with the Corporate Governance Code and the principle that members of the management and supervisory boards should take account of CSR in fulfilling their duties. The government has pointed out that CSR should be part of the entrepreneurial spirit. It is therefore essential to devote serious attention to CSR within the existing structures and responsibilities of the management and supervisory boards. Their reports should also include more information on their CSR policies.

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.

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