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Five core elements of due diligence

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A continuous, long-term and individual learning process

The due diligence obligations of companies concerning human rights are described in detail in the NAP and consist of five core elements:

Five core elements of due diligence

The implementation of human rights due diligence is a continuous, long-term and individual process for every company. The first step is the strategic decision of a company's management in support of human rights. This decision should be laid down and published as a policy statement. During the subsequent process, the aim is to develop procedures and measures to identify human rights risks, avoid adverse effects on human rights throughout the production and supply chain, and proactively promote respect for human rights. This can mean, for example, improving working conditions such as safety and health conditions at work for employees, ensuring adequate living standards and environmental conditions for communities in raw material extraction areas, and guaranteeing freedom of association for employees along the supply chain. Companies may inform the various stakeholders about the measures taken in their sustainability reports, for example. To give victims of human rights violations the possibility to lodge complaints, companies could cooperate with peers in their sector. Working together, they could set up complaint mechanism and increase transparency in their supply chains.

The implementation of due diligence in one's own business and along global supply and value chains poses challenges for companies - but it pays off. The Federal Government therefore intends to provide various support services to assist companies in implementing their due diligence obligations. In addition, it is advisable to carry out certain elements of the implementation process in cooperation with other companies at the association or industry level. In addition, the Federal Government recommends making use of the expertise of civil society organisations and trade unions.

Exercise due diligence - or explain yourself

Since 2018, the Federal Government has annually performed random checks of the status of implementation of the measures taken by companies to comply with their due diligence obligations. The aim of the NAP monitoring process is to identify to what extent in 2020 at least half of all companies in Germany with more than 500 employees have already integrated the core elements of human rights due diligence into their business processes. This also means that if companies are not implementing certain procedures and measures, they should be able to explain why ("comply or explain" mechanism). If this target is not met, the Federal Government will examine further steps, including legislative measures, to ensure the protection of human rights. Further information on the NAP monitoring process can be found here.


The Federal Government has compiled answers to frequently asked questions on the implementation of the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights (NAP). The FAQ is continuously expanded and updated. Currently it is only available in German.

Acknowledging responsibility

Companies should publicly state that they are meeting their responsibility to respect human rights in a policy statement.

Identifying risks

How can potential effects on human rights or deteriorations in the human rights situation resulting from corporate activities be identified and prevented at an early stage?

Minimising risks

Once the risks have been identified, preventive measures and counter-measures must be taken and integrated into business activities. The measures taken should adequately address the severity of the potential and actual impact on human rights.

Informing and reporting

Companies should have information ready and, where appropriate, communicate that information outside the company. This information should be made available in a form that is appropriate for the target audience.

Facilitating complaints

In order to identify actual or potential adverse effects on human rights at an early stage, companies should introduce their own complaint mechanisms.