In 2018 the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment helped produce the Framework Principles on Human Rights and the Environment, where he states that:
“our human rights are intertwined with the environment in which we live. Environmental harm interferes with the enjoyment of human rights, and the exercise of human rights helps to protect the environment and to promote sustainable development.”
The impact of an unhealthy environment on the enjoyment of human rights can be huge. The UN has noted that annually more than 2 million deaths and billions of cases of diseases can be attributed to pollution alone. In the Bangladeshi city of Chittangong, for example, the ship-breaking industry, while disassembling ships into pieces, releases toxic products to the environment, impacting on the health of local communities. Gas exploration in the Argentinian province of Neuquén has reportedly negative impacts on drinking water for the local population that depends on it.+ Read more
Key instruments in the field of human rights and the environmental include the core human rights instruments, but also specific instruments including:
- the Stockholm Declaration of the UN Conference on the Human Environment (1972),
- the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes (1989),
- the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992),
- the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992),
- the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (1992), and
- the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (2001).
The 2018 Framework Principles on Human Rights and the Environment bring together for the first time in one document human rights obligations relating to the environment drawn from a range of treaties and binding decisions, as well as statements of human rights bodies that have the authority to interpret human rights law but not necessarily to issue binding decisions.
Environmental rights are enshrined in over 100 constitutions and most countries around the world have legislation in relation to environmental impact assessment (EIA) of proposed projects and policies that may have a negative consequence to the environment.
Human rights and the environment cannot be discussed without a particular focus on climate change. Climate change is one of the greatest threats to human rights of our generation, posing a serious risk to the fundamental rights to life, health, food and an adequate standard of living of individuals and communities across the world. The effects of climate change impacts disproportionately to the poorest and most vulnerable. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has a number of goals tied directly to the environment and includes Goal 13 on Climate Action.
The burning of coal, natural gas, and oil for electricity and heat is the largest single source of global greenhouse gas emissions. In the Philippines, for instance, the Commission on Human Rights is investigating whether the collective contribution to global warming by 47 coal, cement, oil and gas companies has violated Filipinos’ basic rights to life, water, food, sanitation, adequate housing and self-determination. The companies under investigation include some of the world’s biggest fossil fuel producers, such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, Rio Tinto and Total.
Instruments developed to address climate change include:
- the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer (1985);
- the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1987),
- the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992),
- the Kyoto Protocol (1997), and
- the Paris Agreement (2016).
In terms of climate change in particular, The UN Framework Convention is the most important instrument in the field. The Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement linked to the Convention, commits its Parties by setting internationally binding emissions reduction targets, while the Paris Agreement, also linked to the Convention, requires all Parties to put forward their best efforts through nationally determined contributions, and to strengthen these efforts in the years ahead. This includes requirements that all Parties report regularly on their emissions and on their implementation efforts. The Paris Agreement was the first climate change instrument to explicitly recognise human rights. The preamble acknowledges that climate change is a common concern of humankind and that parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health and the rights of indigenous peoples.
The Environmental and Sustainable Business Commission, a two-year initiative drew upon the expertise of global private sector and civil society leaders, that was created to make the business case for the Sustainable Development Goals, stated in 2016 that:
“the faster a critical mass of company leaders decide to line up their business objectives with the Global Goals and make their sectors more sustainable, the more business there will be for everyone in a more predictable, prosperous, peaceful world. Reduced environmental stress will reduce political uncertainty, lowering business risks and multiplying returns on investment.
If environmental indicators don’t improve in the next 5-15 years, what’s most likely is a strengthening popular backlash against business and increasingly drastic regulatory responses from governments.”
The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment has stated, in the Framework Principles, that:
“businesses should comply with all applicable environmental laws, issue clear policy commitments to meet their responsibility to respect human rights through environmental protection, implement human rights due diligence processes (including human rights impact assessments) to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address their environmental impacts on human rights, and enable the remediation of any adverse environmental human rights impacts they cause or to which they contribute”.
Several UN agencies are calling upon the private sector to move beyond a culture of basic compliance to one where the business community champions the rights of everyone to a clean and healthy environment. The United Nations Environment Programme in particular has committed to assist businesses to better understand what their environmental rights obligations are and provide guidance on how to transition from compliance to championing environmental rights.
Various measures have been approved at different forums in order to tackle environmental protection and to develop systems to manage the environment. The Water Tool, designed by the World Bank in 2007, helps companies map their water use, including risks associated with water use in global supply chains. The International Finance Corporation has also developed in 2012 its Performance Standard 1: Assessment and Management of Environmental and Social Risks and Impacts.
Additionally, a great number of multi-stakeholder initiatives have been adopted to reduce greenhouse gases emissions and to transition to a green economy worldwide. The Climate and Clean Air Coalition is a global effort that unites governments, civil society and private sector, committed to improving air quality and protecting the climate in next few decades by reducing short-lived climate pollutants across sectors. In 2002 the Partnership for Clean Fuel and Vehicles was established bringing together 72 organisations representing developed and developing countries, the fuel and vehicle industries, civil society, and leading world experts on cleaner fuels and vehicles.
Examples of government initiatives include the Geneva Pledge for Human Rights in Climate Action that includes more than 30 countries. The initiative reiterates the importance of addressing the human rights implications of climate change and emphasises that human rights should inform climate processes. At the national level, Guatemala adopted in 2013 the Climate Change Framework Law (in Spanish) to prevent, plan for and respond to the impacts of climate change in the country. In 2013 Jordan published its National Climate Change Policy, which assesses the impacts from climate change on Jordan and recommends a number of mitigation and adaptation measures.
Companies have also been proactive in the issues of environmental protection and climate change. The Coca Cola Company has adopted Supplier Guiding Principles, which include compliance with all applicable local and national environmental laws. Brazilian Petrochemical Braskem for example has been producing “green plastic” since 2010 when the company developed the technology to produce plastic resins from sugarcane. Exxon has partnered with General Electric, Schlumberger, and Toyota through Stanford University’s Global Climate and Energy Project to research low-emission, high-efficiency, and scalable technology that could diversify future energy options.
A 2014 McKinsey study found that 44 percent of sustainable business leaders cite growth and new business opportunities as reasons for tackling sustainability challenges.
Several sectorial organisations have also developed tools in order to address negative impacts to the environment. IPIECA developed in 2016 a Guidance document for the oil and gas industry on Biodiversity and Ecosystem services (BES) fundamentals, which contains six interlinked management practices. The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, Principle 1, states that the global beef value chain manages natural resources responsibly and enhances ecosystem health. Another good example is the ISO 14000 Standard on Environmental Management System, which provides businesses with a number of tools to assist in their environmental management systems. The Global Reporting Initiative’s G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines includes a section on environmental reporting for corporations, having sets of indicators and sub-indicators that help guide the reporting process.
- Climate Liability News, Philippines Climate Case Could Find Fossil Fuel Companies Violate Human Rights, 2017:https://www.climateliabilitynews.org/2017/10/05/philippines-climate-change-human-rights/Nations Office for the High Commissioner of Human Rights, United Nations Human Rights Special Procedures, Framework Principles on Human Rights and the Environment, 2018: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Environment/SREnvironment/FrameworkPrinciplesUserFriendlyVersion.pdf
- United Nations Environmental Programme, Towards a pollution-free planet, Report of the Executive Director, 2017: http://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/22251/k1708347e.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y
- Business and Sustainable Development Commission, Better Business, Better World, 2016:
- IPIECA, Biodiversity and ecosystem services fundamentals. Guidance document for the oil and gas industry, 2016: http://www.ipieca.org/resources/good-practice/biodiversity-and-ecosystem-services-fundamentals/
- Environmental Protection Agency, Global Emissions by Economic Sector, 2014:
- International Finance Corporation, Performance Standard 1, Assessment and Management of Environmental and Social Risks and Impacts, 2012: http://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/3be1a68049a78dc8b7e4f7a8c6a8312a/PS1_English_2012.pdf?MOD=AJPERES
- UN, Declaration of the UN Conference on Human Development, Stockholm Declaration, 1972,http://www.un-documents.net/unchedec.htm
- International Council on Mining and Metals, A practical guide to catchment-based water management for the mining and metals industry: https://www.icmm.com/website/publications/pdfs/water/practical-guide-catchment-based-water-management_en
- BSR, Adapting to Climate Change, A Guide for the Energy and Utility Industry:
- Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, Principles and Criteria: https://grsbeef.org/Resources/Documents/GRSB%20Principles%20and%20Criteria%20for%20Global%20Sustainable%20Beef_091514.pdf
- UN Global Compact, Business Solutions for sustainable development, Case Examples from Global Compact LEAD companies:
- CEO Water Mandate:
- Geneva Pledge for Human Rights on Climate Action: http://climaterights.org/our-work/unfccc/geneva-pledge/
- United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Key Message on Human Rights and Climate Change:
What National Action Plans say on Environment & climate change
Action point 10
Belgium engages itself to integrate the criteria of the UNGPs and of the corporate social responsibilities in the strategy to support the development of the local private sector of Belgium (Page 33)
La Belgique s’engage à intégrer des critères « droits de l’Homme » et de Responsabilité sociétale des entreprises (RSE) dans la stratégie d’appui au développement du secteur privé local de la coopération belge
The new law of March 2013 related to Belgian development cooperation attributes a more important role to the cooperation in view of supporting the private sector in the developing country. One strategic note, entitled “The Belgian Development Cooperation and the Local Private Sector: The Support of Sustainable and Human Development”, was formulated in April 2014.
From now on, and primarily in the sectors of agriculture, basic services, and infrastructure directly pertinent for the development of enterprises and of projects that can contribute to the fight against climate change, the Belgian development cooperation will specifically:
- Reinforce the capacities of public institutions of developing countries who are charged to create a favourable framework for the development of the private sector;
- Improve the access to financing for the micro, small, and middle-size enterprises (MPME);
- Reinforce the capacities of business people of micro, small, and middle-size enterprises;
- Promote equitable and durable commerce in order to support the social economy and favour socially responsible businesses.
This strategy, which applies itself to the actions of businesses in the 14 priority countries of the governmental cooperation but also in the 52 countries of intervention of non-governmental actors and of the Belgian Society of Investment for Developing Countries (BIO), insists as well on the importance of coordination and synergies to developed and on the coherence of the policies put in place as well as on a follow-up for rigorous actions supported.
The principal, specialised actors in support of the local private sector are the Belgian Society of Investment for Developing Countries (BIO) and the Trade for Development Center (TDC).
The corporate social impact purpose of BIO is to invest, directly or indirectly, in the development of micro, small, and middle-size enterprises (MPME) and social economy enterprises situated in developing countries with the interest of economic and social progress of these countries all while assuring sufficient return. At the same time, BIO also has the corporate purpose to invest in energy projects and projects that contribute to the fight against climate change in developing countries as well as in companies whose purpose is to provide basic services to the populations of developing countries. In addition, through its Support Fund for Micro, Small, and Middle-Sized Enterprises (MSME Support Fund), BIO can grant subsidies to co-finance support programs.
The TDC, meanwhile, aims to improve market access for producers and entrepreneurs in the South through direct support to local producer organizations, local businesses, or local professional organizers as well as to develop expertise on the themes of fair and sustainable trade in order to put in place the appropriate awareness and knowledge transfer strategies=
Federal Government Action:
Both the management contract between the Belgian state and BIO, which began in effect for five years in April 2014, and the 2014-2017 Convention for the Implementation of the Trade for Development Centre signed between the Belgian state and Belgian technical cooperation, provides that all development interventions of the local private sector must adhere to certain principles of intervention. Among these principles, in addition to the criteria of “classic” development, are in particular the respect of social, environmental, and good governance aspects. These two legal tools also provide for reporting requirements to monitor and evaluate compliance with these principles.
The annual report sent by BIO will henceforth be systematically the subject of a specific meeting of the Concertation Committee DGD/BIO before June 30th with a management contract in place that links the granting of additional financial means by the Belgian state with respect to BIO in particular for its reporting obligations. The Concertation Committee DGD/BIO will meet quarterly and will mainly ensure the proper implementation of the Management Contract.
The TDC will annually transmit a narrative and financial report, discussed in the Monitoring Committee (CTB-TDC/DGD), to certify the conformity of actions in particular to the principles of intervention outlined in the implementation agreement. The Monitoring Committee will meet every six months mainly to take stock of the monitoring efforts of the TDC Programme.
Pillar 1: The State Duty to Protect Human Rights
Strand 1: Training in the Field of Business and Human Rights
Action Point 1.6 [pages 32-33]
The Ministry for the Environment will:
With the support of expert organisations, coordinate internal training at a national and international level, and at a macro-zone level in the Ministry of the Environment, the Superintendence of the Environment (SMA) and the Environmental Assessment Service (EAS)… Upon creation of the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Service and of the Protected Areas National Service, carry out an outreach and training process including an analysis about their relationship with business and human rights.
Strand 2: Dialogue
Action Point 2.3 [pages 34-35]
The Environmental Assessment Service will design the mechanism to assess the impact of the best practice Guide on the relationships among actors involved in projects submitted to the Environmental Impact Assessment System.
Action Point 2.4
The Ministry of Energy, through the Division of Participation and Dialogue, will promote the creation of formal and steady opportunities for dialogue between businesses and communities in localities where they expect to install energy projects. Aimed at a smooth management of these opportunities, the “Guide for Participation Standards in the Development of Energy Projects” will be available to promote the existence, from the public sector, of mechanisms allowing to decrease the asymmetries existing between the parties, such a registry of advisors and facilitators to be used by communities; a symmetry fund allowing to finance the advisors and facilitators; complaints mechanisms allowing to forward complaints to the authorities that the parties may have regarding compliance with agreements; dispute resolution mechanisms allowing to resolve through alternative methods any disagreements that may arise in the dialogue process. Efficiency criteria set out in Guiding Principle No. 31 will be included in the design of the complaint mechanism. Additionally, the Ministry will promote the development of “local governance mechanisms” in the localities where energy projects are installed. They will be composed of representatives from the community, business enterprises, local authorities and other actors that the parties may consider relevant, with the purpose of carrying out dialogue processes aimed at decision making connected with local development initiatives that may be developed from the presence of an energy project within the territory.
Strand 4: Transparency and Participation
Action Point 4.4 [page 31]
The Ministry for the Environment:
- Commits itself to strengthen the effective enforcement of Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration about participation, access to information and awareness concerning environmental issues, within the context of the preparation of the Regional Instrument on Access Rights to Environmental Issues.
- In line with Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration, it will assess the development of methodologies allowing to facilitate access to environmental information available concerning projects submitted to Environmental Impact Assessment System (EIA), by taking into consideration the complexity and depth of the subjects under discussion.
- The EIA will design a mechanism to establish the usefulness and impact of the Guide for Early Community Involvement, available since 2013, with the purpose of reporting communities at an early stage about projects submitted to the Environmental Impact Assessment System.
- Will promote the availability of spaces for dialogue and participation regarding climate change actions, including the organisation of workshops and public consultation meetings for the preparation of sector adaptation plans. This will be included within the framework of the 2017-2022 National Action Plan for Climate Change -under preparation- which includes the concept of equity as a guiding principle, and gives special consideration to subject such as gender equality, human rights and indigenous peoples. o Will seek to incorporate the gender focus in the next climate change adaptation plans, with the purpose of including the participation of women in the preparation and implementation of actions about this subject.
Strand 5: Public Contracts
Action Point 5.3 [page 43]
The INDH will adopt a human rights and environmental policy for the purchase of goods and services.
Strand 6: Strengthening coherence between public policies
Action Point 6.3 [page 45]
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will:
Generate an opportunity to discuss, at a national level, about the integration of the Agenda of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, as well as about the challenges of these Agendas about the contribution of business enterprises. Regarding this national commitment, the Ministry is committed to generate cross references about human rights and climate change in the reports prepared about these subjects submitted to international organisations.
Through the General Directorate of International Economic Relations, it will:
- Reinforce the work of committees created pursuant to chapters contained in trade agreements about SMEs, cooperation, gender, environment, transparency and labour matters, so that they include human rights-related objectives in their duties, thus becoming a forum for carrying out relevant dialogues. In line with the above, DIRECON will encourage the development of specific coordination activities in the committees and promote the development of technical capacities in human rights
Strand 7: Strengthening of international political coherence
Action Point 7.1 [page 47]
The Ministry of the Environment is currently involved in negotiations of the Regional Instrument about Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration about access to information, participation and justice in environmental matters, where it will take into consideration the business and human rights framework as relevant.
Strand 9: State Business Enterprises
Action Point 9.2 [page 49]
The National Oil Company (ENAP), with the support of independent experts, will prepare a baseline to identify eventual impacts on human rights and the promotion and respect actions the Company is currently performing. This has the purpose to identify gaps and manage the relevant plans for human rights remediation and mitigations. Priority subjects included in the study will be: life, health, environment, water, communities and workers. This initiative is based on the new Sustainability Policy passed by the Board of Directors in December 2016. It is composed of four strands: consideration of stakeholders, environment, integrated management and human rights.
Pillar 2: Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights
Strand 1: Contextual issues: Development of texts allowing business enterprises to understand the local context and the risks of potential negative impacts on human rights.
Action Point 1.4 [page 53]
The Ministry of the Environment will prepare a study about the links between the Law creating the Actual Right of Conservation (DRC) and the Guiding Principles.
Action Point 1.6
The Environmental Assessment Service will prepare the Guide for Describing the Human Environment with Gender Focus for the Assessment of Environmental Impact. Such Guide is meant for the owners of projects submitted to the SEIA.
Strand 2: Promotion of corporate due diligence in the field of human rights
Action Point 2.2 [page 55]
The Ministry of Economy, Development and Tourism will:
- Create working groups in conjunction with the Under-Secretariat of Fisheries and Aquaculture and the Under-Secretariat of Tourism, which will have the duty to analyse and create mechanisms allowing to monitor these sectors regarding their respect for human rights. It will encourage and work with SEP for the adoption of an audit system in the field of human rights.
The Colombian National Action Plan on Human Rights and Business [page 7]
Sector priority. According to the diagnostic approach found in the guidelines, and the follow-up by the Ministry of the Interior to disorderly conducts, the mining-energy sector, the agro-industry and road infrastructure sectors, are to be addressed as a priority because they generate more social conflict given their effects on human rights and the environment.
The State Duty to Protect
II. The State as an economic actor [page 13]
2.6 The Ministry of Environment, jointly with the National Authority for Environmental Permits, will strengthen the existence of respect for human rights requirements regarding the Environmental Impact Assessment of companies, and the Business Social Risk Management and Human Rights Plans.
The Enterprise Duty to Respect Human Rights
VII. Corporate Human Rights due diligence [page 20]
7.8 The Task Force, advised by the Expert Commission, will encourage business enterprises to assess their risks and impacts on people and the environment as a result of their operation.
National Action Plan – production and objectives [page 6]
CSR encompasses areas such as … environmental protection, and the setting-up and running of community facilities.
The concept of business and human rights, on the other hand, is rooted in the fact that certain unwelcome developments should not happen in the course of business activities per se. Respect for human rights is not inherently voluntary – … environmental over-exploitation cannot be dependent on corporate goodwill. However, this Action Plan’s commitments to mitigate and suppress the risk of such occurrences in the absence of the state regulation that would prevent them directly are voluntary. They also make it easier for businesses to keep clear of such situations in their supply chains and among their business partners.
Pillar I: state duty to protect human rights
State aid, guarantees and subsidies
Implements Principles 4 and 7 [page 25]
On 1 January 2004, the OECD Recommendation on Common Approaches on the Environment and Officially Supported Export Credits entered into force. That Recommendation includes a commitment by all Member States not to assist – through their institutions – environmentally harmful projects. In June 2012, the OECD Council adopted the Recommendation on Common Approaches for Officially Supported Export Credits and Environmental and Social Due Diligence, which expands and reinforces the original provisions on the environmental and social aspects of officially supported exports. The new Recommendation establishes simpler, more readily accessible procedure for the categorisation of projects according to their environmental and social impact in the countries where they are to be implemented. The main change is the greater stress on the social impacts of projects and the aspects thereof that have a bearing on human rights in the countries of implementation.
Current state of play:
- In its activities, EGAP abides by the Recommendation of the OECD Council on officially supported export credits.
- CEB and EGAP are subject to the European Union’s sanctioning regimes. State aid will not be granted if it is to be directed towards states or individuals who have been sanctioned by the European Union.
- Aid applicants must submit a detailed environmental impact assessment for a selected export where CEB- and EGAP-backed projects have a larger-scale environmental and social impact.
- Where possible, in subsidy agreements take account of social, environmental and other non-financial indicators and requirements concerning the beneficiary and the beneficiary’s subcontractors.
- Coordinator: All ministries concerned
- Deadline: Running
Pillar II baselines: Human rights as a moral and ethical obligation
Scope and content of the obligation to respect human rights [page 30]
For businesses, there are three dimensions to respect for human rights:
- Do not commit violations of human rights: This applies to a business’s active conduct, the direct impacts of its decisions, and its operations, and may encompass:…
- The destruction of a source of water, permanent soil damage, and emissions that pose a threat to health.
- Do not be associated with violations of human rights: This applies to other parties’ activities about which a business knows, on which it has a bearing, and/or which are closely related to its own business, and may encompass:…
- Lending for a mining project that permanently damages the environment.
What human rights?
These rights are fleshed out in a series of other specific instruments, such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
…As for the external impacts of a business’s operations, this might encompass forced land seizure and population displacement, the ban on requisitioning or destroying natural resources that are vital to a local community, and the ban on destroying cultural heritage.
2. The State Duty to Protect Human Rights
2.3 Actions Taken
Protection of human rights through state regulation and policy [page 12]
Denmark works to ensure that companies involved in Danish development cooperation respect human rights and act responsibly within the areas of … environment … within the framework of ILO conventions, UN Global Compact, the OECD Guidelines for multinational enterprises and work towards implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Protection of human rights in the business sphere in Danish legislation
…the Working Environment Act contributes to protecting the right to a safe and healthy working environment, the act protects, among other things, individuals against adverse impacts on health due to environmental pollution from business sources and contributes to protecting the right to the highest attainable standard of health through regulating access to health services.
Providing effective guidance on how to respect human rights [page 13]
…To ensure that companies have the right tools and the necessary guidance to handle the new due diligence requirements, the Government has updated the existing web tool, the CSR Compass and the Global Compact Self-Assessment Tool in accordance with the due diligence requirements of the UNGPs. ..The revised Global Compact Self-Assessment Tool works as a Self-Assessment guide to a CSR due diligence going through a questionnaire covering aspects of human rights,.. environment… and including a template for a follow up action plan.
Annex 1: Overview of the implementation of the state duty to protect
GP1 State Duty to Protect
Initiatives taken or planned as a dedicated measure to implement the UNGPs (after the UN ratification of the Guiding Principles) [page 24]
In 2011 the Danish government published it second national action plan for CSR “Responsible Growth” 2012–2015. The national action plan contains several initiatives which translate the UNGPs into practice, among other: …A reporting requirement on human rights and climate
GP3c State Duty to Protect
Initiatives taken or planned as a dedicated measure to implement the UNGPs (after the UN ratification of the Guiding Principles) [page 26]
Companies involved under Danida Business Partnerships are required and guided to undertake a CSR due diligence covering human rights,… environment…and to follow-up with an action plan in order to mitigate adverse impacts of business activities on employees and society at large.
The Finnish NAP does not make an explicit reference to Environment and Climate Change.
The French NAP includes a large number of references to the environment and climate change. A number of these include:
I. The State’s Obligation to Protect Human Rights
Introduction [page 12]
France helps reinforce human rights and social and environmental standards at the national, European and international levels, offering constitutional, legislative and regulatory protections …
The International Framework
4. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) [page 15]
… France steered work on the voluntary international standard ISO 20400, which provides guidance on sustainable procurement for organizations in the public and private sectors, through the French standardization organization AFNOR. This standard aims to establish a basic frame of reference to tackle the practices of social and environmental dumping. It was approved in late January, which paved the way for its publication.
5. International Organisation of La Francophonie
At their 12th summit in Quebec in October 2008, OIF [International Organisation of La Francophonie] Heads of State and Government formally undertook to “promote social/societal and environmental corporate responsibility, in particular by encouraging the companies from La Francophonie Member States to adhere to the relevant instruments and international standards and principles, as well as by promoting their harmonization.”
France therefore supports social and environmental corporate responsibility, as stated in the final declarations of the 2008 and 2014 summits. The OIF could be encouraged to cooperate with national consultative human rights commissions on these issues.
Actions underway [page 16]
- Working with the Group of Friends of Paragraph 47 of the Rio+20 Declaration, France supports the reinforcement of reporting requirements in the environmental, social and governance fields, especially with respect to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted on 25 September 2015.
- As outlined in the UN Guiding Principles, France encourages embassies to be vigilant with respect to the human rights and environmental performances of French economic actors. In particular, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development has sent the CSR guide to all diplomatic posts since 2015.
Actions to be implemented
- Implement the UN Guiding Principles in the battle against climate change, following commitments made during COP 21.
The European Framework
7. European Union (EU) [pages 17-18]
… [France has] promoted the inclusion of social, environmental and governance standards in trade and investment agreements …
8. Trade and Investment Agreements [page 19]
… As for the National CSR Platform, [the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH)] issued the following recommendations:
- Ensure social and environmental clauses are included and respected under these agreements
European trade agreements incorporate CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility] and adherence to international conventions on labour and the environment. EU free trade agreements all include sustainable development chapters, which contain provisions on labour law and environmental protection. These chapters also refer to CSR. Provisions mainly reiterate key existing multilateral agreements (for example, ILO’s fundamental conventions in the labour field and multilateral environmental agreements in the environmental field). They also set out cooperation mechanisms for the parties in order to support progress in these fields. Sustainable development chapters in EU free trade agreements and investment agreements contain two further important provisions: one prevents parties to the agreement from lowering social and environmental standards to promote trade and attract investments; the other confirms States’ right to regulate in the social and environmental fields.
From the French perspective, addressing these issues in free trade agreements results in a number of weaknesses:
- Secondly, although trade agreements include social and environmental standards and human rights clauses taken from the main international texts on labour laws and the environment, international organizations (the UNDP, ILO, etc.) are not involved in negotiations, despite the fact they carefully monitor the implementation of these texts (through regular reports by State parties, etc.). Instead, in trade agreements, a committee meeting at least once per year is charged with monitoring the implementation of sustainable development chapters. Civil society (NGOs and nonprofit organizations) can also act as whistleblowers if these regulations are breached, although this power is not institutionalized. Discussions with civil society are generally formalized by way of an annual forum or consultative committee bringing together stakeholders from different backgrounds.
To respect human rights and support responsible practices, social and environmental costs must be included in cost prices. The EU condemns social and environmental dumping and selling at a loss. France must encourage the international bodies to which it is party to implement measures guaranteeing fair and undistorted competition.
In 2013, France issued a number of proposals to improve the way in which social and environmental standards were addressed in European trade agreements. These proposals are still relevant.
These proposals focus on five main areas:
- Improving cooperation with international organizations working in the labour and environmental protection fields (ILO, UNDP, UNEP, etc.). Some of these organizations, particularly UN organizations, are running cooperation projects in countries currently negotiating trade agreements with the EU. Some of these cooperation activities are oriented in such a way that they directly support the social and environmental goals set down in agreements. This is the case for some countries that have just concluded trade agreements or countries benefitting from Europe’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP).
- Improving the evaluation of sustainable development chapters through rigorous impact assessments. These impact assessments must provide a clear overview of social and environmental standards in countries negotiating agreements with the EU. France has completed a major revision of the European manual used to write these impact assessments. This could lead to progress in the field.
- Giving civil society more power to monitor these chapters. In addition to the annual forums currently planned by the European Commission, European trade agreements could give civil society (NGOs and trade unions) a formal “whistleblower” role, denouncing breaches of social and environmental standards. The Commission has decided not to look further into this option at this stage.
Actions Underway [pages 21-22]
- France, working with other European partners who support this initiative, is building on proposals made to the previous European Commission (in March 2013) to reinforce social and environmental standards in free trade agreements and monitor their enforcement.
The National Framework
9. The Protection of Human Rights and the Environment Constitutional Guarantees [page 22-23]
… The charter [Charter for the Environment, 2004, France Constitution] acknowledges a number of rights, including “the right to live in a balanced environment which shows due respect for health” (Article 1), the obligation for public policies to “promote sustainable development” and “reconcile the protection and enhancement of the environment with economic development and social progress” (Article 6), the right to “have access to information pertaining to the environment” and to “participate in the public decision-taking process likely to affect the environment” (Article 7), as well as the principles of precaution and prevention in the environmental field …
10. The Reinforcement of Legislation [pages 23-24]
Recent public policies have led France to adopt new legislative measures supporting CSR.
- For approximately ten years, French legislation has required all large companies to publish detailed information on their CSR policies. The 2001 Act on New Economic Regulations, otherwise known as the NRE Act, requires listed companies to disclose specific social and environmental information in their management reports. The Act of 12 July 2010, also referred to as the Grenelle II Act, reinforced transparency requirements in two ways:
- Under Article 224 of this act, the annual reports of asset management companies must mention the ways in which their investment policies take into account environmental, social and governance criteria …
- Articles 70-IV and 173-IV of the Act on Energy Transition for Green Growth of 17 August 2015 extended reporting requirements by introducing the concept of the circular economy and asking companies to provide information on how the use of their goods and services affected climate change. An implementing decree was adopted in August 2016 to clarify these obligations.
France also played a key role in developing transparency obligations for companies at the European level. It was the main supporter of the draft directive on non-financial reporting obligations, published on 22 October 2014, which requires large European listed companies to publish reports on their social, environmental, human rights and corruption policies. France encouraged the European Commission to take an ambitious approach when adopting the guidelines discussed in the directive. The directive is currently in the final stages of being transposed into French law. This will reinforce existing non-financial reporting requirements for companies.
- In the development field, the Act of 7 July 2014 on France’s strategy for development and international solidarity states that policy in this field must take into account “the social and environmental responsibility of public and private actors”. In addition, “France shall promote this requirement to partner countries and other donors”. Furthermore, “It shall also encourage businesses with their headquarters in France and with offices abroad to implement the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights”. Also under this act, “Companies shall implement risk management procedures to identify, prevent or mitigate social, health and environmental damage and human rights abuses that may arise as a result of their operations in partner countries”.
- An act on a duty of vigilance for parent companies and outsourcing companies was promulgated on 27 March 2017. Under this act, companies that employ more than 5,000 employees in France, or more than 10,000 employees in France and abroad, must draft and implement due diligence plans. Plans must set out reasonable measures to identify risks and prevent serious abuse of human rights, fundamental freedoms, health, personal safety and the environment, arising as a result of the operations of the company, of companies under its direct or indirect control, or of subcontractors and suppliers with which it has well-established commercial relationships.
11. The Inter-Ministerial Exemplary Administration Action Plan and the National Action Plan for Sustainable Public Procurement [page 25]
On 17 February 2015, the Prime Minister issued instructions concerning the 2015-2020 Inter-ministerial Exemplary Administration Plan, on the basis of which each ministry was requested to draw up its own exemplary administration plan. These plans must outline initiatives to be implemented by 2020 in the fields of energy saving, sustainable mobility, resource consumption, waste reduction and biodiversity preservation. They may also address social and societal impacts as part of their focus on social and environmental responsibility …
Public Procurement Policy [page 25-26]
… The National Action Plan on Sustainable Public Procurement seeks to help the State, local government and hospitals make sustainable purchases as per Ordinance 2015-899 of 23 July 2015 and Decree 2016-360 of 25 March 2016 on public procurement …
… The new legal framework for public procurement gives purchasers several ways of addressing social and environmental impacts. Having transposed Article 57 of Directive 2014/24/EU of 26 February 2014 on public procurement, French law now states that public contracts may not be awarded to economic operators that have been found guilty of fraud, corruption or the trafficking or exploitation of human beings (Article 45 of Ordinance 2015- 899). Article 59 of Decree 2016-360 obliges public purchasers to reject bids that do not comply with applicable laws, particularly in the social and environmental fields. Transposing Article 69 of the above mentioned directive, the decree also enables purchasers to reject tenders that are abnormally low because they do not respect applicable environmental, social and labour obligations established by French law, European law, collective agreements or by international environmental, social and labour law provisions (Article 53 of the above mentioned ordinance and Article 60 of the above mentioned decree). This also applies to subcontractors (Article 62 of the above mentioned ordinance and Article 133 of the above mentioned decree). Finally, over and above the analysis of tenders, Article 18 of Directive 2014/24 requires Member States to “take appropriate measures to ensure that in the performance of public contracts economic operators comply with applicable obligations in the fields of environmental, social and labour law established by Union law, national law, collective agreements or by (…) international environmental, social and labour law provisions.”
Actions Underway [page 26]
- The State is committed to ensuring that businesses in which it holds shares respect human rights and the environment.
13. The Role of Public Agencies
Compagnie Française d’Assurance pour le Commerce Extérieur (COFACE) [page 27]
The French export credit agency COFACE, which provides guarantees on behalf of the State, systematically applies the Recommendations of the OECD Council on Common Approaches for Officially Supported Export Credits and Environmental and Social Due Diligence (the “Common Approaches”), most recently negotiated in 2012 by the OECD Export Credits Group …
The Agence Française de Développement [page 28-29]
As mentioned above, pursuant to Article 8 of the French Act of 7 July 2014 France’s strategy for development and international solidarity, the development and international solidarity policy must take into account the social and environmental responsibility of public and private actors. Furthermore, companies must implement risk management procedures to identify, prevent or mitigate social, health and environmental damage and human rights abuses that may arise as a result of their activities in partner countries.
Currently, the AFD does not apply Article 5 of Chapter III of the Act on France’s strategy for development and international solidarity, in particular the requirement to implement measures promoting the financial transparency of businesses involved in operations, country by country. Instead, the financial operators and private sector actors with which the AFD Group and PROPARCO work are encouraged to disclose information on their turnover, profits, employee numbers and taxes paid in each country they are based in. This measure, called “country-by-country reporting”, is already compulsory for European banks.
Actions Underway [page 30]
- COFACE is continuing efforts to make information on reasonable due diligence in the social and environmental fields (which include human rights) visible and accessible on its website.
- The AFD has implemented a grievance management mechanism to deal with environmental and social complaints.
- The AFD is reinforcing CSR and human rights criteria in 80% of pending public works contracts with high social and environmental impacts.
14. Reinforced Risk Analysis and Information [page 31]
… On 8 July 2002, France ratified the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters. This convention seeks to ensure that everyone is able to receive information, participate in decision-making and access justice in the environmental field. As stated in the preamble, “adequate protection of the environment is essential to human well-being and the enjoyment of basic human rights(…).” …
Actions to be Implemented
- Provide training, particularly to staff of the State and local government, on human rights and environmental obligations for businesses (in business schools, engineering schools, the judiciary, etc.).
15. Economic Sectors and Human Rights
The Agricultural and Food Sector – Actions Underway [page 32]
- Recommendations in the Guide to Ex-Ante Analysis of Agricultural Investment Projects that Affect Land and Property Rights are being integrated into the AFD’s due diligence procedures in the land, social and environmental fields.
The Extractive Sector [page 34]
Extractive industries are often considered opaque and at high risk of environmental and human rights abuses. As such, they are subject to heightened due diligence measures and initiatives seeking to address sector-specific risks …
… Implementing the EITI [Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative] will help reinforce the transparency of financial flows and support dialogue between businesses, the State and civil society addressing the extractive sector’s social and environmental impacts on national territories.
The Financial Sector – Actions Underway [page 36]
- France is examining whether to extend environmental, social and governance reporting requirements for institutional investors in Europe to cover human rights.
II- Business’ Responsibility to Respect Human Rights
Introduction [page 37]
… In March 2015, the National CSR Platform agreed on the following points with respect to due diligence:
Parent companies and outsourcing companies should undertake due diligence (which some considered should be voluntary and reasonable, and which others considered should be compulsory) with respect to subsidiaries and subcontractors in order to improve human rights and environmental risk prevention.
This due diligence could include the following measures:
- Defining the operational content of reasonable due diligence processes for companies in due diligence plans. These plans would distinguish between subsidiaries and subcontractors given the different due diligence processes applicable to each of these cases. The goal of these plans would be to identify and prevent human rights and environmental risks resulting from business operations. The French NCP’s work on the textile and garment sector could be a useful reference. Parent companies and outsourcing companies would have to disclose the due diligence processes they implement, in compliance with the European directive on non-financial reporting.
4. International Framework Agreements [page 42]
An international framework agreement is an instrument negotiated between a multinational enterprise and a global union federation. It defines the rights of those working for the group’s subsidiaries and subcontractors around the world, as well as the social and environmental standards the parties wish to comply with. Generally, the agreement includes a monitoring mechanism involving trade union participation. International framework agreements enable businesses to make international commitments to human rights by working with employees and trade unions and respecting the same standards in all the countries they operate in. Businesses should be encouraged to conclude such agreements …
5. Employee Representatives [page 43]
… Under current legislation, judges sitting on interim matters can rule on the admissibility of claims by stakeholders outside of the company (in other words, they can name these stakeholders “interested parties” in specific circumstances). A number of different laws contain provisions on whistleblowers: Article L 1161-1 of the Labour Code applies to corruption; Article L 5312-4-2 of the Public Health Code applies to the safety of certain health products; Article L 1351-1 of the Public Health Code and Articles L 4133-1 et seq. of the Labour Code apply to serious public health and environmental risks; Article 25 of the Act of 11 October 2003 applies to conflicts of interest; and Article L 1132-3-3 of the Labour Code applies to tax fraud and serious economic and financial crime …
6. Reporting [page 44]
… Under European Directive 2014/95/EU, human rights will become one of the pillars of CSR. This position will be reflected in French reporting requirements when the directive is transposed into national law. It should be noted that human rights reporting is already a requirement under the regulatory provisions of the Commercial Code. Decree 2012-557 of 24 April 2012 on the social and environmental transparency obligations of businesses places human rights on an equal footing with other issues.
III. Access to Remedy
Introduction [page 46]
In its 2013 opinion, the CNCDH made the following recommendations:
- The CNCDH recommends that consideration be given to the possibility of extending the exception to the principle of legal independence of companies, which is currently limited to environmental issues, to the field of human rights.
- Drawing inspiration from the duty to protect and remedy in the environmental sphere, the CNCDH recommends that a duty of vigilance on the part of the parent company with regards to its subsidiaries be legally imposed with the aim of preventing any violations of human rights that might occur over the course of its activities.
1. Judicial Mechanisms – At the National Level
The jurisdiction of French courts to hear criminal matters [page 49]
… French legislation is strict in combating human rights violations by legal entities. Under French law, it is a criminal offence for companies to engage in activities that breach people’s rights (violations of human dignity, working conditions that violate human dignity, forced labour), equality laws (gender discrimination, anti-union discrimination, denying the freedom to work, corruption), environmental laws (pollution), or social, health and safety laws (hindering organizations representing employees, concealed work, involuntary injuries or death due to workplace accidents) …
Collective Actions [page 51]
In its opinion dated 24 October 2013, the CNCDH recommended “extending collective action, to matters relating to the environment and health in particular. It is also essential that any French or foreign individual or legal entity residing in France or abroad be able to get involved in any collective action initiated against a French company.”…
… Given the different fields of application mentioned in the bill, collective actions will become a tool allowing plaintiffs to stop or remedy discrimination in the labour field and elsewhere, including with respect to the provision of services, accommodation, transport, etc. Collective actions will also be possible in the environmental, health, and personal data protection fields.
2. Non-Judicial Mechanisms – At the International Level
2.1 The OECD National Contact Point (NCP) [page 54]
… NCPs are set up to promote and monitor compliance with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. They are non-judicial dispute resolution bodies that support remedial measures by offering their good offices and, where possible, giving parties access to mediation. Successful remedial measures rely on an environment of trust being established between the parties and constructive dialogue being initiated between the parties and the NCP, to improve compliance with OECD recommendations.
France’s NCP is tripartite, involving government, trade union and business representatives. This structure was praised by OECD Watch in its report “Remedy Remains Rare” (June 2015). Since the French NCP was created, the State’s involvement has enabled it to adopt a balanced multi-sectorial and inter-ministerial model that is relatively unique among its peers. Its members include representatives of the Ministry of the Economy and Finance, the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Labour and Employment, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development. Another unique feature of the French NCP is its broad representation of labour groups, with six national trade unions featuring among its members. The employers’ organization MEDEF represents French businesses. The French NCP’s decisions are all consensual …
Objective 25.11.1: Define conception for elaborating promotive mechanism regarding environment protection in business sector and strengthening women.
Objective indicator: Presentation of research results.
Activity: Searching finest practice in business sector, in terms of environment protection and strengthening women economically and conducting respective research.
Responsible agency: Human Rights Secretariat of the Administration of the Government.
No partnership agency.
Objective 25.23.1: Ensure awareness rising about UN main principles concerning business and human rights.
Objective indicator: Number of conducted trainings.
Activity: Ensuring that trainings are conducted on the principles of strengthening women and environment protection issues.
Responsible agency: Human Rights Secretariat of the Administration of the Government.
Partnership agency: Inter-agency Commission working on the issues of Gender Equality, Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.
1. The State Duty to Protect
1.1 Basic rules of economic policy
Bi and Multilateral economic relations [page 17]
…Environmental, social and human rights standards should firmly underpin free-trade agreements, which should be accompanied by impact-assessment and monitoring mechanisms.
The Current situation
Germany supports the EU practice of agreeing on provisions designed to safeguard human rights in framework agreements with trading partners and using sustainability chapters in all new free-trade agreements to enshrine …environmental standards. Germany is committed to the negotiation of comprehensive binding standards for inclusion in these sustainability chapters. The EU ‘Trade for All’ strategy which was presented in the autumn of 2015 also emphasises that commercial policy should advance sustainable development and human rights throughout the world.
2. Challenges in corporate practice
2.1 Ensuring the protection of human rights in supply and value chains
The current situation [page 28]
Host countries are assisted by means of capacity-building measures in introducing and upholding environmental and social standards. The Federal Government has long been supporting multi-stakeholder initiatives that have been launched in various sectors for the purpose of devising strategies and monitoring procedures.
- These include, for example, the Sustainable Cocoa Forum, founded jointly by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the business community and civil society. In the Forum, the Federal Government, together with representatives of civil society, the confectionery industry and the food trade and in cooperation with partner countries, presses … sustainable cocoa farming.
- 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.
The Federal Government will support the systematic inclusion of sustainability chapters in free-trade agreements, which will prescribe, among other things, compliance with the ILO Core Labour Standards. Through its development cooperation programme, Germany supports the application of sustainability standards in host countries, for example through the regional project entitled “Social and labour standards in the textile and garment sector in Asia”, which covers three countries – Bangladesh, Cambodia and Pakistan.
3. Available means of practical implementation support
- Information services and best practices [page 35]
- The Federal Government CSR Award recognises exemplary enterprises for their contributions to sustainability. It also promotes a learning process, since each enterprise is scored on the basis of its individual contribution to sustainability.
Section 2. Current legislative and regulatory framework
Environment [page 14]
The government prioritises the right of citizens to enjoy a safe environment and the responsibility of businesses to comply with environmental protection legislation. Ireland has transposed key EU Directives, such as EU Directive 2004/35/EC, which deals with environmental liability with regard to the prevention and remedying of environmental damage. Consistent with the government’s priority of ensuring inclusive and open participation in policy making, Ireland has also ratified the Aarhus Convention, which is designed to promote the involvement of citizens in environmental matters and improve enforcement of environmental law.
Annex 1 – list of additional and ongoing actions to be carried out across government
Trade and Investment [page 21]
- Encourage Irish companies operating abroad to adopt good practice with regards to consultation with human rights defenders and civil society in local communities, particularly on environmental and labour conditions.
I. Statement of Commitment [page 5]
…To protect human rights, Italy undertakes to:
- Encourage companies, also in view of the updating of the National Strategy for Sustainable Development, in line with the commitments undertaken with the Agenda 2030 and the role that the private sector will be called to play in its implementation, to voluntarily commit themselves at national, regional and international level to prevent and redress potential human rights adverse impacts; … and to enhance the use of indicators of quality, sustainable development, equality and gender
II. Background and Context
C. National Priorities [page 7]
…With the aim of analysing specific matters related to the Italian context, the NAP mainly focuses on six priorities representing the business and human rights areas that NAP intends to address…
6. Promoting Environmental Protection and Sustainability.
III. Government Expectations towards business [page 9]
The Italian Government recognises the importance of supporting voluntary approaches of human rights respect and promotion by business as fundamental ways towards the growing of new corporate cultures and strategies inspired by social values and sustainable principles. This is particularly true with reference to the Agenda 2030 and to the role that business is called to play in the SDGs implementation.
In line with the principles set out in the II Pillar of the UNGPs, and as recalled by the CoE Recommendation (2016/3), enterprises are called to respect human rights by conducting their economic activities both within national borders and abroad in a manner to prevent and avoid any potential direct or indirect human rights negative impact, internally …and externally (environment, community members, consumers)…
IV. Government responses: current activities and future commitments
A. Foundational Principles
Guiding Principle 2 [page 11]
… Italian Government expects then that business enterprises comply with all domestic legislation, which includes – among others – specific provisions regarding …the protection… of the environment…
… On the occasion of the Meeting of the G7 Employment and Development Ministers (Berlin, 12-13 October 2015) the “Action for Fair Production” initiative was approved by Ministers in order to foster sustainable global supply chain management in compliance with the internationally recognized labour, social, and environmental standards of the United Nations, the OECD and the ILO.
B. Operational Principles
- LEGALITY RATING [page 13]
The Decree No. 231 introduces essential provisions regulating the relationship between companies and the stakeholders, sanctioning enterprises that through their managers, company’s officers, subordinates (or third parties acting on behalf of the company), commit specific offences, including environmental crimes,…
- THE ADMINISTRATIVE LIABILITY OF ENTITIES [page 14]
… Law 231 is both preventive and punitive: the list of crimes falling under the application of the law has been extended over the time and it presently includes specific human rights abuses… In 2015, new environmental crimes have been included (environmental disaster, environmental pollution, failure to decontaminate, etc.).
Planned Measures [page 16]
- Ensuring the full implementation of Law 221/2015 on green economy, including in particular the elaboration of a ‘Green Act’, a reviewed ‘National Sustainable Development Strategy’, a ‘National Plan on Sustainable Consumption and Production’ and the establishment of a ‘Committee on Natural Capital’ to promote environmental sustainability and foster investments in the green economy; these measures will be developed taking into due consideration the development of the relevant European Union frameworks such as the Climate-energy Package 2030 and the Circular Economy Package as well as according to Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement;
GP 3 (c,d) [page 17]
The Italian Government has reaffirmed its on-going commitment to foster business respect for human rights through activities of promotion and improvement of responsible business conduct in the following fields:
In the field of environment protection, the promotion of high environmental standards by enterprises beyond National and EU legislation is an essential contribution to the respect, promotion and fulfillment of human rights. Particularly relevant in this context are initiatives relating to green economy taken by the Government (Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Economic Development) in partnership with relevant stakeholders (such as national research centres, universities, business enterprises and environmental associations at national and international level) and other international actions undertaken in the field of countering climate change.
Planned Measures [page 19]
- Support the National Dialogue on Sustainable Finance led by the UNEP Inquiry with the Ministry of Environment, and involving major banks, insurances and institutional investors as well as their associations and policy makers;
- Promote environmental accounting in sustainability reporting and encouraging the adoption of disclosure processes for the assessment and communication of the environmental and carbon footprint of business;
- Strengthen human rights protection and promotion of low-carbon, ecologically sound technologies through climate change international cooperation in line with the OECD Guidelines and the Guiding Principles;
The State-business nexus
GP 4-6 [page 21]
… Italy fully adheres to the principles of enforcement of socially responsible procurement and is engaged in ensuring that the respect for human rights is taken into consideration in all procurement stages …
… Export Credit Agencies and Investment Insurance Agencies (ECAs) provide government-backed loans, insurance and guarantees to support business enterprises industrial projects abroad, especially with regard to complex and risky environment. The strategic role of these public agencies (SACE and SIMEST) make them more exposed to the risk of being associated or linked with human rights infringement: they both apply the OECD Recommendation on Common Approaches and Environmental Due Diligence and conduct risk analysis on environmental and social impact in their operations.
The State-business nexus
Planned Measures [page 22]
- Strengthen the implementation of socially responsible public procurement rules by adopting a comprehensive framework of reference for bidders coordinated by A.N.AC and covering: … environment …
GP 27 [page 28]
… Italy also supports respect for human rights within the UNEP rights-based approach to environmental protection and sustainable development. Italy has implemented Principle 10 of Rio 1992 ratifying the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters …
1. Objectives and Measures
Objective 2: promoting corporate responsibility and respect in the field of business and human rights [page 5]
The Government formulates and implements public policies mindful of the principle of responsible business and corporate social responsibility (hereafter referred to as the CSR) as an essential condition for sustainable development. Therefore, in its efforts to increase economic competitiveness, the Government not only promotes the use of renewable and environment friendly technologies that are best fit to meet long-term public needs, but also the development of socially responsible and human rights-minded business.
The CSR category applies to companies that voluntarily go beyond regulatory compliance in addressing social and environmental issues in their business operations. Respect for human rights in business is one of the CSR areas.
The CSR can be seen as corporate policy and practice, where companies voluntarily integrate social, environmental and transparent business concerns in their business operations and their external relations. Together with social and public partners, companies seek innovative solutions to address systemic social, environmental and overall economic well-being problems.
To achieve this objective, the Government shall implement the following measures
A. Implemented and on-going measures for the development of CSR in Lithuania
1. National Strategy for Sustainable Development. The National Strategy for Sustainable Development attributes CSR to the general priorities of sustainable economic development. The implementation of the principle of participation of enterprises and social partners provides for closer social dialogue, stronger CSR, public and private sector partnership, as well as sustainable consumption and production.
Introduction (pg. 8)
…The Government, therefore, attaches particular importance to the implementation of the UN Agenda 2030 and, to that effect, presented a voluntary national report in July 2017 at the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, which took place in New York. The role played by Luxembourg at COP21 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris in December 2015, its role as Chairperson-in-Office of the Council of Ministers of the European Union and through its high level participation in COP22 and 23 in Marrakesh and Bonn, documents the importance the government attaches to an effective fight against climate change in all aspects, including human rights. By reason, Luxembourg is a signatory of The Geneva Pledge on Human Rights in Climate Action.
Part I – Rational Framework for the development, adoption and implementation of the NAP
1. International Context
1.1. United Nations (UN) (pg. 12)
The UN Global Compact supports businesses to carry out their activities in ways that are responsible by aligning their strategies and operations with the ten principles of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption. The Global Compact is recognized as a major proponent of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Luxembourg companies have adopted the ten principles enacted by the Global Compact. It should also be noted that in 2017 CSR Europe (The European Business Network for Corporate Social Responsibility) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with UN Global Compact. IMS Luxembourg (Inspiring More Sustainability) is the representative of CSR Europe in Luxembourg. The National Institute for Sustainable Development and Corporate Social Responsibility (INDR) and IMS are in the talks with the UN Global Compact to represent the local network.
1.5. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (pg. 14)
… Luxembourg, by adopting the OECD Declaration on Investment and Multinational Enterprises in 1976, also adhered to the OECD Guidelines for multinational companies, which were its corollary, and which for the first time instituted an international standard for responsible business for companies actively working internationally.
…The OECD Guidelines represent a comprehensive and global framework for the responsible management of companies, which cover all aspects including, in addition to human rights … the environment…. The OECD Guidelines are still the only instrument for an international approach to corporate social responsibility involving a mechanism – the network National Contact Points (NCPs) – to ensure its implementation.
2. National Context
2.2. Governmental Program (pg. 16)
In the governmental program adopted in 2013, the Government of Luxembourg reaffirmed its commitment to the values of human rights and demonstrates its sense of responsibility in this area, particularly in its external action:
- “Our voice also bears the values we defend: freedom, peace, democracy, and sustainable development, the fight against poverty, exclusion and climate change as well as unfailing commitment to respect for human rights.”
… At the national level, the Government addresses the topic “Business and Human Rights”, on the bias of corporate social responsibility:
“The Government will ensure equitable access to public tenders. Call procedures will be analysed together with the appropriate professional circles and adapted as part of community provisions. The specifications will take into account innovation criteria, respect for the environment and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility).”
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. As the government pointed out in A World to Gain, its policy document on aid and trade, International Corporate Social Responsibility (ICSR) is a prerequisite for sustainable, inclusive growth. 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.
1. Global developments and CSR
1.1.Developing an international framework for CSR [page 13]
Promoting human rights is directly and indirectly linked with environmental protection, climate and anti-corruption efforts. For example, the right to health can be affected by hazardous substances and air, soil and water pollution. Measures to prevent deforestation and forest degradation can safeguard the climate and at the same time promote the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.
1.3. CSR in the Norwegian business sector [page 14]
The Business for Peace Foundation promotes business practices that contribute to sustainable development.
2. The State Duty to Protect Human Rights
2.1 The State as legislator [page 18]
In 2014, a number of human rights were also enshrined in the Norwegian Constitution. The duty of business enterprises to respect human rights is set out in Norwegian legislation, for example in the Working Environment Act,… and the Environmental Information Act. In addition there are acts regulating other areas that may have consequences for human rights, such as the Nature Diversity Act, the Pollution Control Act and the Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Act. These are intended to contribute to a stable climate and a healthy environment, and to help safeguard the right to health.
3. The Corporate responsibility to respect human rights
3.2 Responsible Business Conduct [pages 31-32]
The 13th principle clarifies what companies’ responsibility to respect human rights involves:
An enterprise may cause or contribute to adverse human rights impacts if for example …the living conditions of the local community that are directly affected by the company’s operations decline without prior explanation from or dialogue with the relevant parties, including the local authorities. Impacts on the climate and the environment resulting from the enterprise’s activities, for example through land use, exploitation of natural resources, greenhouse gas emissions or releases of hazardous substances, may also have adverse impacts on a broader range of human rights, such as minority and indigenous people’s rights or the right to life, health, food, water or adequate housing. If a company is responsible for such impacts, it is also responsible for addressing them.
Pillar II: The Corporate responsibility to respect human rights
2. Dialogue and exchange of knowledge and experience in implementing CSR [pages 29-30]
There are four categories of corporate activities that relate to corporate social responsibility: corporate governance, employees, the environment, and the product. The activities conducted within these categories may include:… 3) responsible management of natural resources, reduction of gaseous emissions, responsible waste and sewage management, reduction of energy and water consumption; 4) responsible approach to supply chains, including the extraction and transport of raw materials…
In September 2016, the Minister of Economic Development and Finance established the Advisory Board for Sustainable Development and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR Advisory Board) (Journal of the Minister of Economic Development of 22 September 2016, Item 49). The main task of this subsidiary body to the Minister of Economic Development and Finance is to conduct dialogue and exchange experiences between public administration, businesses, social partners, non-governmental organisations, and research and development institutions in order to develop recommendations and proposals for sustainable development and disseminate the principle of social solidarity and responsible business conduct.
II. Antecedents and Context [page 8]
Finally, it is appropriate to refer in this context to the approval by the Council of Ministers, on October 24, 2014, of the Spanish Strategy for Corporate Social Responsibility; this concept considers the impact of companies on societies. Human rights are one of the elements that comprise Corporate Social Responsibility along with others such as… environmental elements…
Guiding Principle 3
“The Regulations will be implemented and the Directives will be transposed, and the adaptation of the Spanish legal system to the Recommendations and the Opinions made by the EU regarding the Guiding Principles will be studied. This, will be done taking into account the reports published by the European Commission on the legal framework for human rights and the environment applicable to European companies operating outside the EU (2010), and on responsible management of the supply chain (2011) and other relevant reports.”
Guiding Principle 4
… Spain supports the OECD Council Recommendation on common approaches for export credits which benefit from official support and social and environmental due diligence.
The Swedish NAP does not make an explicit reference to the environment and climate change.
5. National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights
5.6. Relation to the Federal Council position paper on CSR [page 12]
The federal government’s commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is set out in the Federal Council’s CSR position paper on corporate social and environmental responsibility. The CSR position paper addresses a very broad spectrum of issues of relevance to corporate social responsibility. These include working conditions (including health safeguards), human rights, the environment, preventing corruption, fair competition, consumer interests, tax and transparency. The present report and NAP in fulfillment of postulate 12.3503 and the CSR position paper on corporate responsibility are therefore complementary and of equal status.
5.7 Pillar I: state duty to protect
5.7.2. Operation Principles: legislative and information policy measures
Guiding Principle 3 [page 14]
As one of the objectives of government, and a binding duty on the State, respect for human rights is laid down in the Federal Constitution (FC)…Article 54 FC lists the federal government’s foreign policy objectives. Of particular relevance in the context of business and human rights are the alleviation of poverty, respect for human rights, the promotion of democracy, the peaceful co-existence of peoples, and the conservation of natural resources.
PI5 Regulation of the manufacture and import of renewable resources (biofuels) [page 16]
The Mineral Oil Tax Act provides that biofuels (biogas, bioethanol, biodiesel and vegetable and animal-based oils) will be wholly or partly exempted from mineral oil tax if they satisfy minimum environmental and social requirements. The criteria were toughened up further with the implementation of parliamentary initiative 09.499 Agrotreibstoffe. Indirekte Auswirkungen berücksichtigen [‘Agrofuels: considering the indirect impacts’]. In the future (cf. Art. 12b para. 3 MinOTA), the Federal Council will have the right to refuse the tax exemption if biofuels have been produced in a country which does not have food security. Furthermore, the area used for cultivating the resources used to produce biofuels must have been acquired lawfully, to prevent the displacement or dispossession of the local population.
PI12 Sustainability Standard Reports [pages 19-20]
In line with the Grüne Wirtschaft [‘Green Economy’] report (2016) and the Federal Council’s national action plan on corporate social responsibility, the federal government campaigns at both national and international levels for the promotion and harmonisation of corporate sustainability reporting. This also covers human rights. Switzerland is a member, among others, of the Group of Friends of Paragraph 47 (GoF47), which promotes sustainability reporting internationally. Within the GoF47, Switzerland works in particular with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
PI13 Corporate sustainability reporting [page 20]
The Federal Council is closely monitoring developments with regard to the legally binding reporting of non-financial information in the EU. It is prepared to examine possible action, which would be as congruent as possible with international regulation, and intends to draw up a consultation draft on sustainability reporting that will be based on the EU instrument. Work will begin when more is known about the way in which EU Member States intend to implement the Directive. Swiss business enterprises are not obliged to report on sustainability issues. However, in line with the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were adopted by all UN Member States, and in particular to achieve SDG 12.6, companies are encouraged to introduce sustainable practices and to include sustainability information in their reporting. Accounting legislation requires all companies that are subject to an ordinary audit pursuant to Article 727 of the Swiss Code of Obligations (CO) to include a general assessment of risk in their management report. This also includes human rights risks, where these are present. Listed companies are also obliged by Article 53 of the SIX Swiss Exchange Listing Rules to report on human rights matters where these might affect the company’s share price. The Federal Council recommends incorporating the human rights risks which business enterprises identify in their due diligence processes, for example, in their sustainability reports.
The UK 2013 NAP
The UK 2013 NAP does not make an explicit reference to Environment and Climate Change.
The UK 2016 Updated NAP
2. The State Duty to Protect Human Rights
The existing UK legal and policy framework
Government commitments [page 11]
(viii) Continue to work through our embassies and high commissions to support human rights defenders working on issues related to business and human rights in line with EU Guidelines on human rights defenders.
4. Access to remedy for human right abuses resulting from business activity
Case study- Supporting human rights defenders in Colombia, Mexico and Brazil [page 22]
The UK supported International Service for Human Rights to deliver an intensive training and advocacy programme for human rights defenders working on issues relating to business and human rights in Colombia, Mexico and Brazil. ISHR also created a toolkit to equip human rights defenders to engage with and influence business and supported an advocacy mission to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for the purpose of briefing diplomats and decisionmakers on the situation of human rights defenders working on issues of business and human rights in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico and obtaining recommendations in that regard.
Case study from NCP – World Wildlife Fund (WWF) & SOCO International Plc, June 2014 [page 23]
WWF’s complaint alleged that SOCO’s oil exploration activities in Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of Congo – DRC) did not contribute to sustainable development and that this conduct was prohibited under existing International agreements and DRC law. The activities specifically risked adverse impacts on the local communities, the environment and wildlife. This case had aroused considerable International media attention.
The UK NCP accepted the complaint and asked both parties to take part in professional external mediation in London, which resulted in an agreed joint statement.
As part of the statement, SOCO agreed that they will not undertake or commission any exploratory or other drilling within Virunga National Park unless UNESCO and the DRC government agree that such activities are not incompatible with its World Heritage status.
They also stated that “when we undertake human rights due diligence, the processes we adopt will be in full compliance with international norms and standards and industry best practice, including appropriate levels of community consultation and engagement on the basis of publicly available documents.” The full joint statement and NCP Final assessment published in June 2014 can be seen at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/330392/bis14-967-uk-ncp-final-statement-following-agreement-reached-in-complaint-from-wwfinternational-against-soco-international-plc.pdf More details on each complaint case which UK NCP have received can be found via the link to the Initial & Final assessments page which lists cases in chronological order https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/uk-national-contact-point-statements
Purpose of the NAP [page 5]
The U.S. government recognises that environmental issues are also integral to RBC and are affected by, and have an impact on, many of these areas. Therefore, environmental issues are addressed in this document to the extent that they overlap with RBC. The Obama Administration’s environmental objectives are comprehensively addressed, and the roles of business and other stakeholders in achieving them, through certain executive statements of policy such as President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, and Executive Orders (E.O.s) such as E.O. 13693, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade.
The National Action Plan
Leading by example
Outcome 1.2: Utilise US law, Multilateral agreements, and diplomacy to promote and enforce high standards
Ongoing commitments and initiatives
Addressing Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing [page 10]: Following the June 2014 Presidential Memorandum on Establishing a Comprehensive Framework to Combat IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud, the U.S. government has taken steps to develop a Trusted Trader program as part of an effective seafood traceability process to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud. The program will establish incentives for RBC by supporting enhanced streamlined entry into U.S. commerce for certified importers. Another outgrowth of the Memorandum was the establishment of a 14-agency National Ocean Council Committee on IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud, which is overseeing the implementation of the March 2015 Action Plan. Through the Oceans and Fisheries Partnership, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will continue its commitment to strengthen regional cooperation to combat IUU fishing, promote sustainable fisheries, and conserve marine biodiversity in the Asia-Pacific region. The Safe Ocean Network, launched through State’s Our Ocean Conference, is a global community fighting against IUU fishing through detection, enforcement, and prosecution measures that increase collaboration between countries and counter-IUU organisations. More than 40 counter illegal fishing projects in 46 countries worth over $82 million over five years are affiliated with the Safe Ocean Network as of October 2016 to address the issue. Implementing department of agency: State, USAID, Commerce, DHS, DOL
Collaborating with Stakeholders
Outcome 2.1: Enhance the Value of Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives on RBC
Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge [page 14]: USAID’s Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge recently selected sixteen Prize Winners and four Grand Prize Winners who submitted the most creative, innovative, and promising science and technology solutions to combat terrestrial and marine wildlife crime, with a focus on combating corruption and reducing consumer demand for illegal wildlife products. Grand Prize Winner New England Aquarium’s solution will digitise customs paperwork and conduct real-time analysis to identify illegal wildlife products hidden in legitimate trade. The National Whistleblower Center, another Grand Prize Winner, will build a secure, transnational reporting system designed to fight corruption by incentivising insiders to securely report wildlife crime. Implementing department or agency: USAID
Facilitating RBC by Companies
Outcome 3.3: Capacity building and technical support to promote enabling environments
Ongoing commitments and initiatives
Combating Illegal Logging and Wildlife Trafficking [page 21]: Through its Environment and Natural Resources Division, DOJ partners with the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and USDA’s Forest Service with the support of State and USAID to provide capacity-building training for investigators, prosecutors, and judges in other countries to prosecute illegal logging and wildlife trafficking cases. DOJ will continue to work to build the capacity of enforcement officials in other countries so they are better able to address these crimes in the countries of origin. In 2016, DOJ provided training to six southern African and five west African countries on wildlife trafficking, and in Colombia, Peru, and Cameroon (for four Congo Basin countries) on illegal logging. DHS will continue to investigate illegal logging and wildlife trafficking cases and work closely with DOJ to prosecute violators. Implementing department or agency: DOJ, DOI, USAID, State, DHS
Annex II: Key domestic executive orders and regulatory efforts
Executive order [page 28]
Enforcement of the U.S. Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships implementing the International MARPOL Convention: The U.S. government enforces the U.S. Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, the U.S. law implementing the international marine pollution convention known as MARPOL. Such enforcement actions are brought against shipping companies that illegally discharge waste oil into the ocean rather than legally dispose of it at port.