Binding Due Diligence Bill Adopted in Parliament and Senate
Key of the Dutch Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) policy is compliance of Dutch companies with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises with its accompanying due diligence guidance. In order to prevent human rights harms by businesses, the UNGPs envisage that states implement a smart mix of voluntary and mandatory measures. Until now, Dutch RBC policy relied strongly on voluntary measures. Thus, the adoption of the Child Labour Due Diligence Bill (May 2019), obliging companies to take responsibility for addressing child labour in their supply chains, is a historic step.
The initiative of the law came from Member of Parliament Roelof van Laar who initiated discussions in 2014. Through its membership of the MVO Platform, Civic Engagement Allance contributed to the policy discussions, lobby letters and lobby meetings with MPs and civil servants around the new law.
Smart mix/ lobby in the Netherlands
The Dutch government is mainly relying on voluntary measures to ensure that Dutch companies take responsibility for the human rights abuses and environmental damage that may occur in their international supply chains. Examples of voluntary measures include information sessions for companies wishing to do business abroad, the IRBC covenants in several high-risk sectors and IRBC conditions for companies wanting to participate in a trade mission or to make use of a subsidy scheme of the Dutch government. However, experts indicate that complementing voluntary with binding measures will strongly increase the impact and reach of those voluntary policy measures, as binding measures will affect all companies and not just the frontrunners. Civic Engagement Allance supports this analysis: some Alliance members have signed one or more IRBC covenants and work together with private sector and government to identify and mitigate human rights and environmental risks in the supply chains of the involved companies.
Progress is made by proactive companies, but to also get on board the rest of the companies in the sector, we see the need for legislation that determines a bottom line/ lower limit with which companies should comply. That is why Civic Engagement Allance together with the MVO Platform is advocating with the ministry of development cooperation and the Parliament for a smart mix of measures, consisting of informing, incentivizing, setting conditions and obliging companies to carry out due diligence.