Legislation for responsible business conduct

Image: Kelly Michals Flickr

June 28, 2022

Both in the Netherlands and in the European Union, laws are currently being drafted on responsible business conduct (RBC). These laws will oblige companies to ensure that they do not cause or contribute to any damage to people and the environment, and to remedy harm that has been done. The law requires companies to be ‘diligent’ with human rights by repeatedly investigating whether, and if so how, human rights are violated and to address these risks. The legislation therefore concerns mandatory ‘human rights due diligence’. 

Human rights and warcrimes

In conflict-affected areas, companies run a high risk of becoming involved in severe human rights abuses and even war crimes. Poignant examples are the oil company Lundin in South Sudan and the coal companies Glencore and Drummond in Colombia, but also companies that are active in illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory. Or arms companies that supply weapons to, for example, regimes that commit war crimes. 

Companies are often ill-prepared for handling these risks because the research they do as part of their standard due diligence does not include the specific risks of doing business in or around conflict-affected areas. However, in the current legislative proposals on RBC, the additional risks associated with doing business in conflict-affected areas are nowhere mentioned or addressed, even though the risks for people in conflict-affected areas are very high. 

Extra effort

Companies that operate in conflict-affected or are linked to them through their suppliers or customers should make an extra effort to identify and tackle the specific risks in conflict-affected areas. Also, companies should not only respect human rights, but also international humanitarian law when operating in conflict-affected areas. In this policy brief Pax explains how companies should do that and what should be included on conflict-affected areas in upcoming RBC legislation.

Read the full policy brief Conflict & Due Diligence Legislation

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