While the debate on a human rights due diligence law in Germany is still ongoing, many other countries have already introduced legally binding measures. We strongly recommend companies to take swift action in order to ensure compliance with human rights legislation and expectations.
California has its Transparency in Supply Chains Act, the UK and Australia have their Modern Slavery Acts, France has introduced its Vigilance Law and the Netherlands recently voted the Child Labor Due Diligence Act. Many other countries, including Germany (link) and Switzerland, look like they will follow soon.
Although there are differences between these various regulatory initiatives, the commonalities are quite obvious:
- They put pressure on companies to take human rights due diligence seriously and to take action to address adverse human rights impacts
- They demand a commitment to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
- They expect companies to assume responsibility for human rights throughout their supply chains
- They introduce sanctions for companies that fail to implement robust human rights due diligence practices
Implementation: What is expected from companies?
Both the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights as well as national action plans expect the following measures from companies:
- A commitment to uphold the Guiding Principles, approved by the highest executive level
- A process to identify actual and potential human rights impacts
- Measures to prevent adverse human rights impacts and a process to verify the effectiveness of these measures
- Reporting publicly on human rights approach and impacts
- Provide a channel for remediation or participate in existing remediation processes
A number of guidelines are available to assist you with the implementation of a due diligence concept. These include the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the Guidance of the Global Compact as well as a number of sector-specific guidelines.
Validation of Due Diligence by DQS
In case of a lawsuit or remediation procedure for alleged human rights violations, the extent of due diligence that can reasonably be expected is often decisive. A validation by an independent third party such as DQS serves as evidence that your organization takes its duty to protect human rights seriously.
The benefits of independent validation include:
- The validation confirms that your organizations has taken appropriate measures to avoid adverse impacts on human rights
- Validation by a credible third party provides assurance to investors, clients and the public
- The assessment is an opportunity to discover strengths and weaknesses of your human rights management approach
The Validation Process
In accordance with ISO/IEC 17029, validation is an assessment with the goal of confirming that the disclosed data and processes are appropriate to fulfil their intended purpose. Validation of human rights due diligence is the confirmation that your management approach is adequate to fulfil the commitment to the UN Guiding Principles.
- Commitment & Disclosure of Management Approach
Your organization provides us with its commitment to the applicable guidelines and standards for upholding human rights. Typically, this is a commitment to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Your organization also provides us with a description of its management approach to human rights due diligence. This description can be a part of your sustainability report, or a separate document. This description will need to be made publicly available by the time the validation is complete.
- Document Review
You will be requested to provide all relevant documents to the assessor team. This includes the commitment signed by the highest level of your organization, the analysis of actual and potential human rights impacts, process descriptions to prevent adverse human rights impacts as well as reporting in accordance with the Guiding Principles, Clause 21.
- Validation on site
Our assessors conduct interviews with management and employees of the relevant divisions (CSR, Compliance, Procurement, … ). We verify that employees are aware of the commitments, that the necessary resources to conduct an impact assessment are available and that the identified impacts are plausible. We also evaluate whether the measures taken are proportional to the size of the organization and its risk profile. Lastly, we evaluate whether your organization reports transparently on human rights issues and whether channels for remediation are available.
- Output: The Assurance Statement
After completing the validation assessment, we issue an assurance statement, which confirms the adequacy of the human rights due diligence concept. This statement can be used for communication purposes – as part of your sustainability reporting or as a separate document.
Learn more at the Sustainability heroes conference
Human rights due diligence will be one of the key topics at our annual Sustainability Heroes Conference. Speakers from a variety of organizations, ranging from SME to global corporation, will present their management approach to human rights. The conference takes place on May 12, 2020 in the Maritim Hotel Düsseldorf. Book your seat today!
What DQS can do to help your organization
As one of the leading certification, verification and validation bodies in the world, we help our clients gain and maintain the trust of consumers and business partners. With qualified assessors across the globe, we are ready to assist wherever you need. Contact us to discuss your projects or sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.