A continuous, long-term and individual learning process
The due diligence obligations of companies concerning human rights is described in detail in the NAP and consists of five core elements:
- a corporate policy statement that human rights will be respected,
- procedures to identify actual and potential adverse effects on human rights,
- measures to prevent potential adverse effects and other measures to verify the effectiveness of such measures,
- reporting and
- complaint mechanisms.
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. 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.
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
Starting in 2018, the Federal Government will annually perform random checks of the status of implementation of the measures taken by companies to comply with their due diligence obligations. The target is that by 2020 at least half of all companies in Germany with more than 500 employees will have integrated elements of the implementation 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.