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ECCJ publishes “Key Features of mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence legislation”

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Today, corporations operate across national borders with few or no obstacles. The absence of legal standards which define companies’ duties and ensure access to justice for victims of corporate malpractice has allowed companies to profit from operating in countries where laws guaranteeing human rights or environmental standards do not exist or are not adequately enforced.

ECCJ publishes today its position paper “Key Features of mandatory human rights due diligence legislation”. The document contains ten key features for effective, comprehensive mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence legislation. These features are essential to achieving legislative reforms that implement HRDD to its full potential, while helping to alleviate the numerous obstacles faced by victims of corporate-related human rights abuses when seeking justice and remedy for harm suffered.

The selection derives from a review of existing institutional and civil society-driven initiatives, taking into account the various differences among national legal systems and traditions.

Today, ECCJ and other leading CSOs have also called on the European Commission to develop an EU Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, which remains a long-outstanding commitment of the EU.

Why do we need binding Human Rights Due diligence legislation?

Since the UN Human Rights Council’s adoption of the UNGPs in 2011, full implementation of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights and of HRDD has remained marginal. Recent studies show that, while there is a small minority of companies that are “leading” the way by providing examples of good practice in HRDD, the vast majority of business enterprises are still in a very early stage when it comes to implementing the UNGPs.

So far, the general reliance on voluntary and incentive-driven measures to promote business respect for human rights by European Union (EU) decision-makers has proven insufficient.

ECCJ Position Paper describes that, in the last years, several European and non-European countries, as well as the EU, have adopted or started to consider legislation that embeds elements of HRDD into law.

Decision-makers at country and the EU level should take note of this emerging trend and begin work for the adoption of mandatory HRDD legislation.

What are the ten key features of mandatory HRDD legislation?

ECCJ’s paper identifies three big areas: scope of the law; nature, content and reach of the due diligence obligation, and liability and access to justice.

  • Scope of the law: the law should protect all relevant human rights and environmental standards, as well as the rights of specific groups and individuals according to the company’s operational context. It should be mainly addressed to large companies, but also to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) whose activities bear particular risk.
  • Due diligence obligation: the law should establish the company’s responsibility to respect human rights and the environment. In order to meet this responsibility, companies should be required to exercise HRDD along their entire corporate structure and supply chains.
  • Access to justice: the law should help to alleviate some of the biggest obstacles faced by victims of corporate-related human rights abuses when they seek remedy. To this end, the law should establish the company’s civil liability for the harm caused by companies under their direct or indirect control when these have infringed human rights or environmental standards. The law should therefore allow persons affected by a company’s global impacts to bring an action against the parent company in the courts of the country where the entity is domiciled. It should also address other obstacles such as the rules of disclosure of evidence and the applicable law.

See and download ECCJ position paper here.

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