Today, six Dutch political parties (ChristenUnie, D66, PvdA, GroenLinks, SP, Volt) have formally submitted the Bill on Responsible and Sustainable International Business Conduct to the Dutch House of Representatives. The bill obliges enterprises to conduct business with respect for human rights, the environment, and the climate in accordance with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The bill is of crucial importance for the Netherlands and the EU, says the MVO Platform.
Time to act
‘If passed, this bill will have a strong positive impact on communities and workers around the world,‘ says Manon Wolfkamp of MVO Platform, the network of 25 Dutch civil society organisations and trade unions working on corporate accountability. ‘Companies will be obliged to address abuses such as child labour, modern slavery, and climate change impacts. We call on all Dutch politicians to act quickly and start the political process without further delay.‘ Two of the six political parties backing the bill are part of the government coalition (ChristenUnie and D66).
Addressing abuses in value chains
The bill is in line with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, a framework for responsible business conduct that companies are already familiar with. Under the bill, companies will be obliged to map their value chains, including (possible) negative impacts on human rights, the environment, and the climate. If negative impacts exist, the company must address and remedy them. An independent regulator will monitor compliance with the law.
Wolfkamp: ‘Corporate accountability is widely supported by the Dutch public. Corporate frontrunners that already do business with respect for human rights and the environment also support this legislation because it will create a level playing field and prevent unfair competition from companies that cut corners on human rights and environmental protection in order to lower costs. By passing this legislation, the Netherlands has an opportunity to make an important contribution to effective EU-wide rules for responsible and sustainable business conduct‘.
Effective and ambitious bill
The bill covers a wide range of human rights violations, environmental damage, and climate harm across the entire value chain. If passed, it would greatly improve access to justice for victims of human rights abuse or environmental harm. Companies that cause or contribute to negative impacts will be obliged to provide remedy and can be held liable in court. In many aspects, the bill is likely to be more effective than the European Commission’s proposal for a Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) that was published in February 2022.
Broad support for legislation
Over 65 companies and 60 civil society organisations and trade unions have been campaigning for this bill through the Sustainable and Responsible Business Conduct Initiative (IDVO.org). In 2021, over 40,000 Dutch consumers signed a petition calling for corporate accountability legislation. Research by polling company YouGov shows that 80 per cent of Dutch citizens are in favour of strong legislation that requires companies to prevent human rights violations and environmental damage abroad.
An English translation of the Bill for Responsible and Sustainable International Business Conduct is available here.