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Report on Human Rights Due Diligence and the Role of States

Geneva, 3rd December - The International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR)) along with the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ) and the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA) launched a report by International Experts on Business and Human Rights, entitled “Human Rights Due Diligence: the Role of States”. The International Experts commissioned included Professor Olivier De Schutter, Professor Anita Ramasastry, Mark B. Taylor and Robert C. Thompson.

The Report builds off of a set of global Consultations with legal practitioners, academics and experts from around the world and examines how States are using their regulatory authority to mandate due diligence for human rights or areas akin to human rights, such as environmental protection and workplace health and safety. The Report seeks to establish the extent to which the legal systems of States already make use of due diligence to ensure that businesses respect established standards and to describe for policymakers a range of regulatory options they might use to take the next steps in ensuring businesses respect human rights.

Drawing on State practice and international standards, the Report finds the following:

  • The origins of due diligence are neither as a creation of the United Nations Human Rights Council nor as a voluntary measure for corporate social responsibility. Due diligence has its origins from legal tools that States in every region are already using to ensure that business behavior meets social expectations, including standards set in law;
  • The due diligence procedures found in a variety of legal systems are consistent with processes described in the United Nations Guiding Principles and other international instruments;
  • The concept of due diligence is found in areas of law that are either analogous to or directly relevant for human rights, such as labor rights, environmental protection, consumer protection and anti-corruption;
  • Due diligence requirements can be used to ensure that business enterprises can be held accountable for violations of law, including through overcoming obstacles to effective regulation posed by complex corporate structures or transnational activities;
  • There are, at least, four main regulatory approaches through which States can ensure human rights due diligence activities by business. Usually these approaches co-exist within the same jurisdictions and legal systems. These include:
  • Requiring due diligence as a matter of regulatory compliance;
  • Providing incentives and benefits to companies, in return for their being able to demonstrate due diligence practice;
  • Encouraging due diligence through transparency and disclosure mechanisms;
  • Combining one or more of the above approaches.
  • States could make far greater use of legal tools to ensure business respects human rights in general and implements due diligence for human rights in particular.

“This Report is based on vast consultation with a global set of respondents, and provides strong evidence for the need for legal requirements on business entities to conduct human rights due diligence. We urge Governments to carefully consider the findings and work to ensure that their duty to protect human rights includes requirements over business actors to conduct due diligence related to human rights,” said Amol Mehra, Coordinator of the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable.

“The fact that our coalitions have come together around this Report evidences the critical nature of the issue of human rights due diligence, and its potential value in ensuring that business respect human rights,” added Filip Gregor, Board Member of the European Coalition for Corporate Justice.

The launch of the Report will take place in conjunction with the Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva, scheduled for December, 2012. ICAR, ECCJ AND CNCA will host a discussion with the Authors alongside a Keynote Address by Member of the European Parliament Richard Howitt from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm on December 3rd, 2012 in the Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland.

Contacts

Amol Mehra International Corporate Accountability Roundtable amol@accountabilityroundtable.org
Filip Gregor European Coalition for Corporate Justice filip.

Contact

Filip Gregor

Head of the Responsible Companies Section