Human rights due diligence in practice

The human rights due diligence exercised by companies has become a key concept in the public and legal discourse on protecting international human rights.

In December 2016, the German government adopted the National Action Plan (NAP) for implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This states that all companies should introduce a (management) process for corporate due diligence with regard to respecting human rights. This should be done in a manner appropriate to the size, industry and position in the supply and value chain. The five core elements of the due diligence are to be implemented on a voluntary basis.

At the national and European level there are increasing calls, however, for statutory regulations to compel companies to exercise due diligence in their supply and value chains, as a purely voluntary approach is not leading to any discernible improvement in the human rights situation.

What demands are being made by trade unions and employee representatives in implementing human rights due diligence? Calls to effectively involve and consult trade unions and workers’ representatives are being made in the political sphere – particularly with regard to protecting the human right to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.

A crucial question: Which practice-based demands and proposals for engaging trade unions and employee representatives can be formulated at the operational level in companies?

Exercising human rights due diligence is an ongoing process – effective participation requires, among other things, that the involvement of trade unions and employee representatives does not remain at the level of individual initiatives and examples, but extends to shaping human rights due diligence on a day-to-day basis within companies.