The Dutch government is preparing a legislative proposal on due diligence for responsible business conduct, as per the coalition agreement that was finalised in December 2021. Although the government has repeatedly stated its preference for European rules for responsible business conduct, it will also introduce national legislation in order to speed up the European process. The MVO Platform welcomes this decision and calls upon the government to submit a legislative proposal in Parliament soon.
The coalition agreement states the following: “At EU level, the Netherlands will support legislation on international corporate social responsibility (ICSR), and will introduce national ICSR legislation that promotes a level playing field with neighbouring countries and takes into account translation by the authors of “rekening houden met“, the original translation uses “in line with” the implementation of possible EU legislation”. The decision followed upon the announcement of the then minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Tom de Bruijn, in early December 2021, who said the Netherlands would start preparing its own law on mandatory due diligence. He cited the delay of the European Commission’s proposal for EU rules on responsible business conduct “until further notice” as a reason for this decision and stated that the government could not afford postponing the introduction of legislation any longer given that the Senate adopted the Child Labour Duty of Care Act in 2019 already. The minister also said that a Dutch law would help increase support for ambitious rules at the EU level.
The MVO Platform, the Dutch network of civil society organisations and trade unions working on responsible business conduct, strongly welcomes the government coalition agreement, which shows that the Netherlands want to end corporate abuse in global value chains. The coalition parties have listened to the voice of a large group of civil society organisations, trade unions, progressive companies, academics and over 40,000 Dutch citizens who signed the petition for due diligence legislation.
The MVO Platform believes that the development of a legislative proposal does not need to take a long time, as the previous government has already published its position on the key elements of future legislation (the so-called ‘building blocks’) in November 2021. The current government has not yet announced when it plans to submit a Bill on responsible business conduct in Parliament, but has said that the development of the proposal has started and that the government will be consulting academics as well as stakeholders from business and civil society.
The Dutch government is also expected to be an active participant in the negotiations on the EU Directive for corporate sustainability due diligence, which was published in February 2022. Several elements of the proposal are not in line with the government’s ‘building blocks’. The MVO Platform and the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ) have highlighted dangerous gaps in the proposal.