Due diligence in a nutshell

Written by Claire van Beuningen

In previous blogs we have written about human rights and the protection thereof. Many guidelines and regulations - for example the OECD Guidelines and the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights  - incorporate human rights due diligence. Human rights due diligence is a means of achieving the goal of protecting human rights. But what does it entail?


The Five Fundamental Labour Rights

Exploration of the ILO fundamental labour rights - part 1

Ethical standards in business gain importance. That is why our Database filters the codes of conduct, supplier codes of conduct and other ethical documents from companies worldwide on the presence of the core labour standards. These standards are recognized by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as fundamental labour rights and they became the benchmark in guidelines and ethical documents from companies where labour issues are concerned.


Have working conditions for workers in the Bangladesh textile industry truly improved?

The renewance of the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile Industry and its impact on working conditions

‘The Accord’, an international accord between labour unions and fashion companies to ensure safety in clothing factories in Bangladesh and Pakistan, has been renewed for another six years. Some of the biggest brands in the fashion industry have signed this new accord, such as Hugo Boss, H&M, G-Star, C&A and Zara. But these signatories do not only include fashion companies, but also other companies such as Aldi, Lidl, Target and Trader Joe’s. This accord is the successor of the original Bangladesh Accord. The Bangladesh Accord was reached after the Rana Plaza collapse, the biggest disaster in the garment industry as of yet, now ten years ago. If you would like to know more, read one of our previous blogs which discusses the Bangladesh Accord and this event thoroughly. 


Gender Discrimination in the Workplace

On September 18th 2023, International Equal Pay Day was celebrated. This initiative from the United Nations, including the International Labour Organisation (ILO), strives to achieve equal pay for work of equal value. International Equal Pay Day was not officially recognized by the United Nations until 2020. The idea was derived from the National Committee on Pay Equity, which started a similar action in 1996 to raise awareness for the pay gap between salaries of men and women in the United States. Since being recognized by the United Nations, International Equal Pay Day has become a global phenomenon. Now that the inequality in salary between men and women has mostly been acknowledged, the focus lies on making a change to start narrowing this gap in practice. According to the numbers the United Nations refers to, the gender pay gap has been estimated at 20 per cent globally. Consequently, the UN founded the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC), which works on reducing this number and achieving gender equality in the workplace. Their vision is to ensure active behaviour from governments and private entities to implement initiatives for equal pay. They strive to realise this by 2030, through educating these institutions, encouraging innovation and creating initiatives and programmes which have positive results. 


Mandatory Due Diligence – Threat or Opportunity?

Proposals on mandatory due diligence – part 10 - by Kate Verhoeff

In previous blogs, the European Directive and the concept of mandatory due diligence were introduced. The contents of the European Directive have since been explained and then compared to various attempts at national mandatory due diligence legislation, such as in Germany, the Netherlands and France. All these pieces of legislation are in some way based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), which first introduced a framework to implement mandatory due diligence obligations. The European Directive goes as far as to include several references to the UNGPs in its recitals. Given the criticism that the European Directive has received from various stakeholders in terms of its applicability and scope, it could be called into question to what extent the European Directive in fact incorporates and reflects the UNGPs. It is this question we shall explore in this blogpost.


Isn’t Slavery a Thing of the Past?

Insights in the ILO’s Global Estimates on Modern Slavery

In the Kingdom of the Netherlands, 2023 is a Slavery Memorial Year, celebrating that 150 years ago, slavery was actually abolished in the Kingdom. On 2 December, it will be 74 years since slavery has been internationally abolished by the General Assembly of the United Nations. This might seem like slavery is something from the past, but the UN warns that “modern slavery is on the rise”. According to the most recent estimates of the ILO, around 50 million people worldwide are trapped in modern slavery. Does this mean that slavery still exists?


Mandatory Due Diligence – Threat or Opportunity?

Proposals on mandatory due diligence – part 9

In part 3 of this series we discussed the contents and scope of the difficult-to-read Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD). When this part was written, the text of the Directive was not yet final. The penultimate part of this series on mandatory due diligence will discuss the most recent developments regarding the proposed Directive.


Book Launch 'Panta Rhei: recht en duurzaamheid'

On June 15, 2023 the Law faculty at Leiden University hosted the launch of the book ‘Panta Rhei: recht en duurzaamheid’ (Phanta Rhei: law and sustainability), edited by dr. Yvonne Erkens, dr. Cees de Groot and dr. Chris van Oostrum. The book contains a collection of twelve articles from thirteen researchers from Leiden University. Most of these articles are written in Dutch, except for two (written in English). Readers of this blog will already be familiar with many of the authors’ names. Prof. Paul van der Heijden, one of the founders of the Database of Business Ethics, has written an article about the meaning of ‘decent work’. Sarah Vandenbroucke, a contributor to the Database, has written an article about the actual effect of Codes of Conduct. A version of this article has also been published as a blog. And of course one of the editors of ‘Panta Rhei’ is dr. Yvonne Erkens, the main driving force behind the Database.


Union Busting: the New Worrying Trend of Large Multinationals?

How Starbucks, Amazon and Google do not respect the industrial rights

Large multinationals are ‘union busting’. This entails that they are fighting trade unions to prevent workers from exercising their right to freedom of association and collective bargaining. For instance, famous coffee chain Starbucks ran a fierce anti-union campaign. Amazon even spent 14.2 million dollars on anti-union consultants last year to prevent freedom of association and collective bargaining within its workforce. Additionally, Google hired union-busting consultants to convince employees that “unions suck”.


Mandatory Due Diligence – Threat or Opportunity?

Proposals on mandatory due diligence – part 8: written by Eva Lammers and Harmen Goudappel

In order to work together on sustainable business practices, multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) entail interactive processes involving corporations, civil society organizations, and other interest groups. MSIs are organizations with a membership-based structure (for example the Fear Wear Foundation), project facilitators, roundtable talks (for example the Dutch Coal Dialogue), and accredited bodies, among others, that perform diverse tasks. In spite of their differences, all MSIs strive to promote sustainability in company operations through stakeholder collaboration.


Cambodians Drowning in Debt and Increased Child Labour Due to Microfinancing Sector

The importance of due diligence in the financial sector

What started off as a Nobel Peace Prize-winning concept, ended up as a nightmare for many Cambodians. The microfinancing system was developed to offer financial help to people who want to start or expand a business but can not get a loan at regular banks. Microfinance is thus aiming at reducing poverty. While well intentioned, the system has led to overindebtedness causing child labour and forced land-sale, thus causing grave harm to poor people in India, Sri Lanka, Mexico and Jordan, and most of all in Cambodia.


Mandatory Due Diligence – Threat or Opportunity?

Proposals on mandatory due diligence – part 7: written by Harmen Goudappel

In this blog we will continue to explore the different proposals on mandatory due diligence in Europe. After zooming in on the Dutch and German proposals and their relationships to the proposal for a European Directive in the last two parts of this series, this blog will focus on the differences between the Loi sur le devoir de vigilance (hereinafter: French Vigilance Law) and the European Directive. In that context, the main focus will lay on the scope of the two proposals.


ILO Supervision: Voluntary But Effective?

An explanation of the ILO’s supervisory system

The International Labour Organization (ILO) works hard to improve labour conditions for workers around the world. To this end, it has created many conventions for states to ratify, containing various important fundamental labour rights. For this to be effective, supervision is necessary. Therefore, the ILO has a detailed and unique supervisory system to ensure countries implement the conventions they ratify, which will be explained in this blog. However, this system functions on a voluntary basis. Does this affect the effectiveness of protecting fundamental labour rights through the system of the ILO?


Mandatory Due Diligence – Threat or Opportunity?

Proposals on mandatory due diligence – part 6: written by Eva Lammers

The draft of the European Directive is all about making sure companies do their homework when it comes to human rights and the environment. EU member states must introduce legal requirements based on the OECD Guidelines and the UNGPs. It could be defined as a guide for companies to make sure they are being responsible global citizens. The Lieferkettensorgfaltspflichtengesetz (hereinafter: German Supply Chain Act) is Germany's version of a supply chain act, with its own twist. In this blog, the German Supply Chain Act will be compared to the European Directive.


Ten Years Since Rana Plaza – What Has Changed?

What the biggest disaster in the garment industry has brought about

This week it has been ten years since ‘Rana Plaza’ in Bangladesh collapsed, also known as the ‘9/11’ of the garment industry. Thousands of workers had to keep working in this 8-floored building despite concerns about the structure of the building, expressed towards their supervisors. Clothes of famous international brands like Gucci, Prada, Versace and Moncler were made in the textile factories based in the top floors of the building, added without permit. These floors were not suitable for heavy industrial machines, important bearing walls were missing. The collapse of those floors tore down the rest of the building, and over 1,130 people did not survive. The biggest disaster in the history of the garment industry was a wake up call that the safety of textile workers desperately needed improvement.

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