In 2014, the Social Economic Council in the Netherlands (Sociaal Economische Raad) recommended concluding multistakeholder agreements to promote international responsible business conduct (IRBC). This recommendation was a reaction to the growing realisation of the risks involved in global business, such as human rights abuses in the supply chain, and an increasing public awareness and concern about these abuses. Since then, the Social Economic Council has called for and organized the negotiation of International Responsible Business Conduct Agreements, the IRBC agreements (Internationaal Maatschappelijk Verantwoord Ondernemen Convenanten, IMVO-convenanten).
IRBC agreements have a twofold of goals. Firstly, to improve the circumstances in a number of risk areas, such as child labour, low wages, human rights violations and environmental pollution. The aim is to improve these conditions within three to five years after the signing of the agreement. Secondly, the IRBC agreements aim to offer a collective solution to problems that businesses are unable to solve alone.
The IBRC agreements are concluded sector by sector on a voluntary base. Businesses that sign these agreements work together with the government, unions and NGOs to prevent abuses of employees and the environment in their supply chain. In the agreement, businesses in the sector identify problems they face and then describe how these problems may be prevented or solved. The agreements contain what steps businesses will take to reach this goal. Signatory businesses commit to complying with these arrangements.
The IRBC agreements enjoy broad support from the businesses from the sectors involved, as the sectors themselves initiate the negotiations to develop an agreement. Currently, there are existing agreements in the Garments and Textile sector (2016), the Banking sector (2016), the Gold sector (2017), the Sustainable Forestry sector (2017), the Vegetable Protein sector (2017), the pilots in the Natural Stone sector (2017-2020), the Food Products sector (2018), the Insurance sector (2018) and the Pension Funds (2018). IRBC agreements are being developed in the Metallurgy sector, Floriculture sector and Agricultural sector.