How companies can make meaningful use of voluntary sustainability standards

Within the Sector Dialogue Automotive Industry, representatives from companies, non-governmental organizations and politics have developed new frameworks on meaningful use of voluntary sustainability standards.

Voluntary sustainability standards can support companies in fulfilling their human rights due diligence obligations. They help to communicate requirements along the supply chain and standardize processes. At the same time, it is clear that voluntary sustainability standards cannot exempt companies from their due diligence obligations.

So what should companies bear in mind when using voluntary sustainability standards? Who offers them guidance in view of the growing number of standard systems? How can the quality and credibility of voluntary sustainability standards be assessed? And what should companies do if gaps are identified?

The Practical Guide on integrating voluntary sustainability standards in human rights due diligence provides answers to these questions. These recommendations from the multi-stakeholder group incorporate the findings gathered from the various stages of the pilot project.

In a first step, the project group, together with a sustainability consultancy, developed an Analytical Framework: a practical Excel tool which enables companies to evaluate voluntary sustainability standards independently.

In the context of the pilot project, we were able to identify the advantages and limitations of standard systems in the implementation of environmental and human rights due diligence along the supply chains for critical raw materials at an early stage. We are using the analytical framework designed for the assessment of standard systems to further develop our own strategic approach to due diligence obligations in the upstream supply chain.

In a second step, the group applied the analytical framework to the copper supply chain with the support of another service provider and through a dialogue with two standard initiatives. The result was a Guidance Note on complementary measures which recommends steps that companies should take in addition to the use of voluntary sustainability standards to address and prevent human rights risks in mineral supply and value chains.

The documents developed are valuable practical aids for companies. In particular, the quality criteria for the selection of industry standards help companies to evaluate whether these are suitable for the implementation of due diligence obligations and can be integrated. The guides also show that companies cannot rely solely on audits. They must take further risk- and context-specific measures in their raw material supply chains. The examples here make due diligence obligations manageable and support small and medium-sized enterprises in particular.

The publications are available in English.

Workstreams - CSR (csr-in-deutschland.de)