Growing momentum for human rights due diligence

The implementation of mandatory human rights due diligence laws are being considered across Europe. The latest country to explore this approach was Switzerland.

At the end of November a referendum was held asking the Swiss electorate to decide whether Swiss companies should be subject to mandatory due diligence.

In the December/January issue of Governance & Compliance Magazine, GoodCorporation consultant Juliette Hérault examined the move towards mandatory human rights due diligence across Europe, the factors that are driving this and how the referendum came about in Switzerland.

France’s Duty of Vigilance law has been a major driver behind this move. Adopted in 2017, the law requires companies that fall within its scope to establish a vigilance plan which identifies the human rights risks and suggests how they will be mitigated. These plans and accompanying implementation report must be made public, with the prospect of sanctions for those failing to comply.

At the wider EU level, the Commission is seeking to introduce a legal duty to conduct human rights due diligence, impose sanctions for non-compliance and potentially allow victims of corporate abuse the right to obtain remedies.

Although the Swiss electorate voted against the proposal, resulting in a lesser initiative coming forward which will impose due diligence requirements for child labour and conflict minerals only.

Despite this decision, the article explores why human rights due diligence whether mandatory or voluntary looks set to become established best practice.