The MVO Platform argues for supplementary legislation in the area of the liability of Dutch parent companies for breaches of internationally recognised standards by subsidiary companies.
At the request of Frank Heemskerk, the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, research was recently carried out into possibilities under Dutch law to hold parent companies liable for breaches carried out abroad by subsidiary companies.
The report concludes that the Dutch legal system offers opportunities for this in principle, but only under certain conditions. Before a court can decide that a case must be heard under the Dutch legal system, various questions must be answered. Each specific case can lead to a different judgment. There is therefore a large degree of legal uncertainty.
There are a number of restrictions which make it difficult to hold parent companies liable. For example, it is up to the complainant to demonstrate that the parent company has a significant influence on the subsidiary company in question. As there is little openness on group company structures, this is difficult to demonstrate. The MVO Platform is therefore arguing for clarification of the liability of parent companies for their subsidiary companies. The MVO Platform is also arguing for a statutory ‘duty of care’ of directors with regard to fundamental standards (in the areas of human rights, the environment and employment).
There is also an insufficient guarantee of access to justice for victims of corporate infringements. Victims also often lack resources and have insufficient access to information on companies. Legislation in the area of corporate transparency (for example, a statutory reporting obligation on non-financial data) could be useful in this.
The MVO Platform sought legal advice, which revealed that there are legal possibilities for reducing the above restrictions. In a written response, the MVO Platform explains these options in greater detail to the Dutch Parliamentary Committee for Economic Affairs.
At the invitation of the Committee for Economic Affairs, the MVO Platform explained its vision and recommendations during a hearing in the Lower House on 14 January 2010. Joris Oldenziel (SOMO) took part in the hearing, representing the MVO Platform. MVO Platform participants Amnesty International and Milieudefensie were also represented. The other delegates were VNO-NCW, lawyer Michel Uiterwaal and the authors of the research report.
Read the written contribution of the MVO Platform (in Dutch) here