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Guiding Principle 11
Business enterprises should respect human rights. This means that they should avoid infringing on the human rights of others and should address adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved.
The responsibility to respect human rights is a global standard of expected conduct for all business enterprises wherever they operate. It exists independently of States’ abilities and/or willingness to fulfil their own human rights obligations, and does not diminish those obligations. And it exists over and above compliance with national laws and regulations protecting human rights.
Addressing adverse human rights impacts requires taking adequate measures for their prevention, mitigation and, where appropriate, remediation. Business enterprises may undertake other commitments or activities to support and promote human rights, which may contribute to the enjoyment of rights. But this does not offset a failure to respect human rights throughout their operations.
Business enterprises should not undermine States’ abilities to meet their own human rights obligations, including by actions that might weaken the integrity of judicial processes.
What National Action Plans say on Guiding Principle 11
STATUS IN BELGIUM/ACTIONS ENGAGED:
In general, the NAP does not engage with the second pillar to the same extent as the first and third pillars. In the introduction it is stated that “through the NAP Belgium wants to encourage and invite companies to organize the implementation of the second pillar in an ambitious and coherent manner, and in consultation with stakeholders.” It also adds that respecting human rights is not only the duty of business companies, but of any organization.
Action point 4, Promouvoir les initiatives qualitatives existantes relatives aux droits de l’Homme et à la responsabilité sociétale [Promote existing qualitative initiatives on human rights and social responsibility], the federal government explains that as part of the promotion of the application of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the OECD NCP organized a seminar in early 2014, which highlighted the importance of the respect and promotion of human rights by companies.
Action point 10, 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 [Belgium is committed to integrating human rights and corporate social responsibility (CSR) criteria into the local private sector development support strategy of Belgian cooperation] of the Belgian NAP briefly mentions “the promotion of fair and sustainable trade and the support of social economy and the favoring of socially responsible entrepreneurship” as one of the areas that the cooperation for Belgian development will monitor.
Action point 15, Intégrer le principe de « diligence raisonnable » au sein des organismes de gestion de l’entreprise, également en matière de droits de l’Homme [Incorporate the principle of “due diligence” into the management of the company, also in the terms of human rights] is the main action point on human rights due diligence. The integration of the ‘due diligence’ obligation for companies covered by the EU Directive 2014/95/EU concerning human rights in the instruments of corporate governance will allow for the creation of new business opportunities, as well as clarify the expectation of the plublic authority vis-à-vis companies, in particular companies that do not yet have a comprehensive social responsibility policy, with an emphasis on prevention rather than punishment.
Action point 16, Promouvoir les rapports sociétaux, droits de l’Homme inclus [Promote social reporting, including human rights] is the main action point covering the issue of non-financial reporting. The NAP explains that given the adoption of the new EU directive 2014/95/EU, some major companies will be required to disclose non-financial information in their annual report relating to the environmental, social and human resource issues, respect for human rights and the fight against corruption and bribery. Companies that meet the conditions for making such a non-financial statement but that do not have a policy on one or more of the above-mentioned issues will be required to provide a clear and reasoned explanation of the reasons for this choice and to include it in this non-financial reporting. “Within the European Commission, Belgium will insist on support measures, for both large companies that are obliged to publish a report, as well as small and medium sized companies and other organizations that wish to do so on a voluntary basis.”
On Action point 17, Plaider au niveau de la Belgique pour le renforcement de l’intégration du développement durable (y compris des droits de l’Homme) dans les accords de libre échange [Advocate for strengthening the integration of sustainable development (including human rights) in free trade agreements] the federal government states that during negotiations at the European level, Belgium will advocate for the respect and inclusion of fundamental labour rights and international environmental standards – including in cases of development cooperation – in investment agreements and free trade agreements. “Any new trade or investment agreement must not have negative impact on sustainable development.”
Action point 19, Promouvoir les bonnes pratiques des PME qui adoptent une gestion de la chaine d’approvisionnement responsable, notamment grâce à l’outil « CSR Compass » [Promote best practice of SMEs that adopt responsible supply chain management, especially through the « CSR Compass » tool], has a special focus on SMEs.
- Actions from the government of Wallonia will include the promoting the ready-made instruments to the companies, also covering the CRS compass. Concretely, this will involve setting up workshops for exchanges between companies of the same sector and the creation of a practical guide for SMEs wishing to improve the ethics in their supply chain.
In the context of the Action point 22, Encourager la gestion responsable des chaînes d’approvisionnement avec une approche sectorielle [Encourage responsible supply chain management with a sector-wide approach], the NAP explains that different initiatives have been made in the past to contribute to the respect for human rights in supply chains – mainly quoting different OECD guidelines.
The Chilean NAP does not make an explicit reference to GP11.
The Colombian NAP does not contain a reference to GP11.
The Czech NAP does not contain a reference to GP11.
3. The Corporate Responsibility to Respect human rights [page 17]
The Government supports the implementation of the corporate responsibility to respect by carrying out initiatives, which are aimed at supporting and assisting companies with this effort.
Finland’s NAP makes no reference to GP11.
II. Business Responsibility to Respect Human Rights
Proposal for Action No8 [page 41]
- France encourages and enhances the commitments made by businesses to respect internationally recognized human rights standards.
- Frances encourages businesses to adhere to the UN Global Compact or other voluntary initiatives such as ISO 26000 or the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, which help spread the UN Guiding Principles.
The German NAP does not contain a reference to GP11.
The Irish NAP does not contain a reference to GP11.
The Irish NAP does not contain a reference to GP11.
Italy’s NAP does not contain a reference to GP11.
The Lithuanian NAP does not contain a reference to GP11.
The Dutch NAP does not contain a reference to GP11.
3.1 Responsibility to respect human rights [page 31]
Under the UN Guiding Principles and the OECD Guidelines, business enterprises have an independent responsibility to respect human rights. This is not a legal requirement. However, most countries have legislation that directly or indirectly protects individuals and vulnerable groups from human rights abuses in connection with business operations. There is thus a global standard for what can be expected of a business enterprise regardless of whether or not the local legislation affords adequate protection for human rights.
The Polish NAP does not contain a reference to GP11.
The Spanish NAP does not contain a reference to GP11.
2. The corporate responsibility to respect [page 13]
The Government’s clear expectation is that companies operating in Sweden or abroad respect human rights in all their activities…Similarly, they should address adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved.
4. Position of the Federal Council on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
4.2 The Swiss context [page 6-7]
Swiss companies are viewed worldwide as pioneers in the development of the global market and the creation of jobs and welfare. Many of these believe that respect for human rights is of strategic importance to their operations (in terms of, for example, competitive advantage, market positioning, greater productivity and avoiding reputational risks). Nowadays, increasing numbers of business enterprises are fulfilling their human rights responsibilities in a conscious way. Both business enterprises and civil society stakeholder groups are supporting and furthering respect for human rights with a wide range of programmes. Indeed, respect for human rights forms an integral part of many companies’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities. A further example is the discussion paper on the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in the banking sector published by the Thun Group of Banks, a group of international full-service banks. Representatives of civil society play an active part in the Roundtable on Human Rights in Tourism. Umbrella business associations are also keeping active track of the human rights issue, are committing themselves to the UNGP, and are ready to engage in dialogue. In doing so, they are making a major contribution to the implementation of the UNGP8 . The Federal Council acknowledges these achievements.
Responsible corporate conduct throughout the value chain is becoming increasingly important to many consumers in Switzerland. Many Swiss companies are currently having to tackle a large number of challenges simultaneously: securing their competitiveness on the international markets, against the backdrop of the strong franc and the implementation of Corporate Tax Reform III and the Mass Immigration Initiative, investing in new technologies and human resources, and creating decent, well-qualified jobs in Switzerland and the wider world. With this in mind, the Federal Council can support SMEs in fulfilling their corporate human rights responsibility (cf. PI6 in Section 5.7.2), and ensure that the administrative and financial burdens are not excessive.
4.3 The position and expectations of the Federal Council
The UNGP distinguish between three types of adverse human rights impacts on the part of business enterprises:
- Business enterprises may abuse human rights through their own activities.
- Business enterprises may contribute to abuses of human rights through their activities.
- Business enterprises may be involved in abuses of human rights via their business relationships, without contributing to those impacts themselves.
Business enterprises that are based and/or operating in Switzerland should duly fulfil their duty to uphold human rights. Here, they can draw guidance from Pillar 2 of the UNGP and from the ‘Human Rights’ chapter of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The UN’s guidance on implementing Pillar 2 The corporate responsibility to respect human rights as well as the relevant sector and topic-specific guidelines serve as a basis for this. Business enterprises that are exposed to particularly high human rights risks should develop internal policies and procedures for their human rights due diligence for the business activities concerned. Their precise form will depend on factors such as the size of the enterprise and the nature of its business (sector, geographical scope, etc.).
Attention should be paid to the specific circumstances of and options open to SMEs. The Federal Council will endeavour to support business enterprises and SMEs in particular, as they proceed with implementation, in order to keep the costs and administrative burden at a reasonable level…
In compliance with Pillar 2 of the UNGP and the ‘Human Rights’ chapter of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, business enterprises that are based and/or operate in Switzerland should respect human rights in all of their business activities, wherever they operate…
The UK 2013 NAP
The UK 2013 NAP does not contain a reference to GP11.
The UK 2016 updated NAP
Introduction [page 3]
4. Companies understand the business case for respecting human rights and the benefits this brings. They understand that positive action, supported by due diligence, transparency and reporting can:
- help to protect and enhance a company’s reputation and brand value;
- safeguard and expand their customer base;
- help them attract and retain good staff;
- build and maintain sustainable and effective relationships with employees and external stakeholders;
- reduce risks to operational continuity resulting from conflict inside the company itself or with the local community or other parties;
- reduce the risk of litigation for human rights abuses;
- attract institutional investors, including pension funds, who are increasingly taking ethical, including human rights, factors into account in their investment decisions;
- help companies become partners/investors of choice for other businesses or governments concerned about human rights risks;
- support company ethics and values.
Since the UK’s National Action Plan was published there has been an increased emphasis within the business community on the importance of reporting, benchmarking companies’ social and ethical performance, and corporate transparency. These can be an effective complement to regulation and a tool for protecting and promoting corporate reputation, and providing reassurance to both customers and investors.
The US NAP does not contain a reference to GP11.