Last 25th October, ECCJ participated at the Corporate Responsibility event organised by Fairtrade Finland in Helsinki. Civil society organisations, companies and members of political parties defended the need to introduce mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence legislation in Finland and at EU level.
The event, which was attended by over 100 participants, took place in the context of the campaign for mandatory HRDD legislation launched by over a hundred civil society organisations, companies and trade unions last September in Finland. The #ykkösketjuun campaign (“the number one class” in Finish) calls on the Finnish government to join the frontrunners in taking steps to regulate the companies’ duty to prevent human rights abuses along their global supply chains.
ECCJ’s presentation put the developments in Finland in the context of a growing trend towards mHRD legislation around Europe and globally, with developments taking place in France, Switzerland,The Netherlands, and other countries.
The four largest political parties in the parliament in Finland have supported including the campaign call in the negotiations for the formation of the new government that will be appointed after parliamentary elections in April 2019.
Speaking at the public event last October, the Finnish Minister of Economic Affairs, Mika LIntilä (from the Centre Party), confirmed his understanding that the campaign’s call would be included in future government negotiations, regardless of the composition of the next Finnish government. “I do not consider national mHRDD law impossible”, he said.
The Minister of Justice, Antti Häkkänen (from the National Coalition Party), said that Finland should be proactive in increasing the transparency in global supply chains.
The representatives of the Greens and the Social Democratic parties clearly supported the need for legislation. Sanna Marin, Member of the Parliament from the Social Democratic party, called for ambitious legislation which does not allow green or white washing. Marin defended the complementary nature of progress towards legislation at national and EU levels. Sonja Vartiala, executive director of Finnwatch, expressed herself along the same lines: "National mHRDD law is a first step. Finland holds the EU Presidency in the second half of 2019, and we set the bar for the rest of the world”.
Ville Niinistö, Member of Parliament from the Greens, defended the need for legislation, also for the fair and proper functioning of a market economy.
All participants acknowledged the growing public pressure for legislation. Companies, trade unions and consumers have joined civil society in its calls for a regulatory framework that puts in practice the corporate responsibility to respect human rights as established in the UNGPs.
Companies demand regulation
About half of the members of the #ykkösketjuun campaign are companies. Company’s representatives in the public event called for legislation which sets clear rules and levels the playing field.
Matti Kalervo, Kesko Group’s Vice President for Corporate Responsibility, explained that Kesko is supporting this law because of the extreme importance of the need to respect human rights.
Jukka Kurttila, Creative Director of Finlayson, said that the company has no problem with binding regulation on human rights. "This campaign calls for common, fair rules for all companies", Kurttila said.
The S Group, Stockmann, Fazer, Paulig, Kotipizza, Sampo Group and dozens of other large companies and SMEs are also involved in the #ykkösketjuun campaign.
Watch the event's full video (ECCJ presentation in English) here.
Read the Press Release for the campaign's launch in English here.