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Corporate due diligence in the area of human rights

Worker on a building lot.

Assumption of responsibility for human rights in supply and value chains

Enterprises have a responsibility to respect human rights. Corporate due diligence constitutes the second pillar of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Enterprises are important players in society and influence local structures and the lives of individuals through their business activities and relationships. All business enterprises are responsible for conducting human rights due diligence regardless of their size, sector, structure or the international supply and value chains they deal with. Not only major global players, but also small and medium-size enterprises create jobs, buy goods and services in other countries, use local resources and, in doing so, have an impact on the living and working conditions of their employees, and on other stakeholders: customers, suppliers, local residents, the social environment, the economic context and the environment. This applies to the individual company's production operations as well as its entire supply and value chain.

Enterprises should prevent or mitigate any adverse impact on human rights their business activities may have. When designing and implementing their due diligence processes in the area of human rights, consideration should be given to the beneficial effects of corporate activity and the different perspectives of the company’s employees, relevant stakeholders and others who may be affected. In large enterprises, these include the human resources, purchasing, compliance and sales departments. From outside the enterprise, suppliers, customers and trade unions as well as bodies from civil society, business organisations and governments should be involved. Particular attention should be directed to the rights of their respective employees and to those of local populations who may be affected. It should be possible for any given enterprise to incorporate its human rights due diligence obligations into its existing processes in an appropriate manner without creating undue bureaucratic burdens. The scope of the measures to be taken should depend on the size of the enterprise, the nature of its products or services, the potential risk of particularly adverse impacts on human rights and the enterprise's operating context.

Enterprises should strive, wherever possible, to inspect the work of their suppliers and their subcontractors in order to achieve the best possible transparency with respect to production, working and environmental conditions, to identify risks and to develop solutions. When enterprises operate in countries where legal principles are insufficiently enforced or not enforced at all due to, for example, a lack of legislation or controls, enterprises have particular responsibility for respecting human rights in their area of activity.

In order to meet their responsibility to respect human rights, business enterprises should have in place policies and processes appropriate to their size and circumstances, including:

(a) A policy commitment to meet their responsibility to respect human rights;

(b) A human rights due diligence process to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address their impacts on human rights;

(c) Processes to enable the remediation of any adverse human rights impacts they cause or to which they contribute.

UN Guiding Principle 15