The three pillars of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights [page 6]

“A clear Swedish profile in this area can contribute to strengthening Sweden as a brand. The Guiding Principles are also fundamental to the corporate governance of state-owned enterprises.”

1 The State duty to protect human rights [page 11]

Criminal law provisions to protect human rights

“Sweden has a number of criminal law provisions for the protection of human rights regardless of the context in which an offence is committed, including in the business context. Through these criminal provisions Sweden also fulfils its international commitments in relevant respects. Examples include: …

Corporate fines entail liability for companies, among others. Although only natural persons can be convicted of a crime, corporate fines may be imposed on a business operator (e.g. a legal entity) for crimes committed in the exercise of business activities. (Chapter 36, Penal Code).”

Annex: Measures taken [page 23-24]

The State as owner

  • “According to the government state ownership policy, state-owned companies are expected to set a good example, which means that they must seek to comply with international guidelines such as the UN Global Compact, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. They must also be transparent and report in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). State-owned companies must also identify areas of CSR that are relevant to their business strategy and the board of directors must set strategic sustainability targets. The ownership policy applies in companies where the State is the majority owner; in other companies, where the State is part-owner, the State seeks to ensure that the ownership policy is followed, in dialogue with other owners.
  • The Government has held seminars for the chairs of boards and managing directors of all state-owned companies on the Government’s expectations regarding the companies’ application of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. A study was carried out in 2013 on the international guidelines from the UN and the OECD, aimed at facilitating companies’ application of the state ownership policy. …
  • A business analysis tool that sheds light on relevant areas of CSR, including human rights, has been developed for state-owned companies by the Government Offices corporate management organisation. The analysis increases the owner’s awareness of the companies’ risks and opportunities and how these can be managed. The result of the analysis is integrated in corporate governance and taken into account in the Government’s regular dialogue with the company, in monitoring the company’s development, and in the recruitment and nomination of board members.
  • Like other state-owned companies, Swedfund International AB (Swedfund) and the Swedish Export Credit Corporation (SEK) are required to comply with the government state ownership policy for CSR, as described above. Moreover, Swedfund and SEK have social mandates specially adopted by the Riksdag. Swedfund is required to ensure that its investments comply with international standards and CSR principles, within clear and sound corporate structures that do not contribute to tax evasion, money laundering or terrorist financing. SEK is required to take account of conditions such as the environment, corruption, human rights and working conditions in its credit assessments.”

Annex: Measures planned [page 27-29]

Regulations and legislation

  • “The interim report Implementation of the EU’s new accounting directive (Swedish Government Official Reports 2014:22) proposes enhanced transparency regarding payments made by some companies active in the extractive industry and in the logging of natural forests. The provisions will require companies to publish annual reports on payments made to authorities in the countries in which they operate. The aim is to combat corruption.”
  • The EU has adopted a Directive amending the Accounting Directive on disclosure of non-financial and diversity information. Corporate disclosure of sustainability and diversity policy (Ministry Publications Series 2014:45) proposes that certain companies prepare a sustainability report providing information on, for example, respect for human rights and anti-corruption activities. It is also proposed that the corporate governance reports of certain listed companies disclose the diversity policy that applies to their board.”

The State as owner

  • “CSR will continue to be an integral part of the Government’s active corporate governance of state-owned companies. The human rights work undertaken by state-owned companies will be examined in relevant cases in the sustainability analysis and followed up in stakeholder dialogues between representatives of the owner and the companies.”

Corporate action

“The Government’s clear expectation is that companies operating in Sweden or abroad comply with the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights and other relevant guidelines in this area, and review their due diligence and redress mechanisms. Companies operating in markets where human rights challenges are particularly serious should place special emphasis on work in the area.”