Mandatory Due Diligence – Threat or Opportunity?

Proposals for mandatory due diligence – part 4

As mentioned in the previous blog of this series, the text of the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (hereinafter: Directive) is not final yet. The European Council has adopted its negotiating position (‘general approach’), and the European Parliament is expected to vote on its position during its plenary in May. Negotiations between the Council, Parliament and Commission are expected to start in the summer, possibly reaching an agreement on the final text by the end of 2023. However, reaching that agreement may take a bit longer.


Sexual Abuse: Violation of a Safe and Healthy Workplace?

Convention C190 on Violence and Harassment as part of OSH

Last week, International Women’s Day was celebrated all around the world. On that day, amongst other things, women’s right to work and professional achievements working towards equality between men and women are celebrated. However, there is still a long way to go. Three weeks ago, the BBC revealed shocking stories of sexual abuse of women on Kenyan tea farms. The harassment took place for years on plantations owned by Unilever and James Finlay & Co. After the allegations were made public, Lipton Teas and Infusions, who recently bought Unilever’s plantations, has reportedly taken action immediately. Even though Unilever launched a “zero tolerance” approach to sexual harassment including a reporting system 10 years ago, many women were sexually abused by their bosses, and when they reported it to their supervisors, no action was taken. Jobs are very scarce in Kenya, so women hardly have a choice to quit since they have families to feed.


Mandatory Due Diligence – Threat or Opportunity?

Proposals for mandatory due diligence – part 3

Mandatory due diligence is a sensitive subject which evokes many different reactions. In this series (see part 1 and 2), it is already discussed what due diligence is, why it is becoming mandatory and what companies’ views are on this obligation. Considering it has been one year since the European Commission adopted the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (hereinafter: Directive), in this blog the contents of the difficult-to-read Directive will be clarified.


Are Supplier Codes of Conduct Effective?

By Sarah Vandenbroucke

Multinational impact on human rights in global supply chains is gaining momentum, and is increasingly discussed by legislators and academics. To do business responsibly, companies often adopt supplier codes of conduct through which social and human rights are protected. These codes are also the documents to be found in our database.Since supplier codes of conduct (hereinafter: SCs) form self-regulatory tools, companies are free to use wording and compliance methods of their own choice. Does this make supplier codes solely window dressing policy documents?


Mandatory Due Diligence – Threat or Opportunity?

Proposals for mandatory due diligence – part 2: ESG Manager Manuella Appiah on the due diligence approach of Sunrock

Mandatory due diligence is a sensitive subject which evokes many different reactions. In the first part of this series, we discussed what due diligence is and why the EU and different national governments are planning on making it mandatory. For this blog, we invited Sunrock ESG Manager Manuella Appiah to tell us more about due diligence from their company’s perspective.


Structural Impact of COVID-19 on the World of Work

How a pandemic is not just a threat to public health

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a crisis like this generation had never seen before. Everyone was and continues to be affected in aspects of their private or professional lives. For some people it may feel like we are back to normal, others may say the pandemic is far from over. But the pandemic was – or is – not only a threat to public health. In a previous blog, we reviewed WESO 2023 and issues regarding recent crises. In this blog we will focus specifically on the impact of a public health crisis on the world of work.


Mandatory Due Diligence – Threat or Opportunity?

Proposals for mandatory due diligence – part 1

Recently, there has been much ado about the Dutch Bill on Responsible and Sustainable International Business Conduct in the Netherlands. Because of the effects of the obligations in this bill, Royal Boskalis threatened to leave the country. The Dutch Bill is comparable to the Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence in the EU. The Bill and the EU Proposal contain a due diligence obligation for companies. Boskalis is one of the largest dredging companies worldwide, with more than 10,000 employees and a revenue of almost 3 billion euros in 2021. According to Boskalis, the Dutch Bill contains a duty of care which is vaguely defined, posing great risks of liability which endangers the continuity necessary for business operations. MVO Nederland, a networking organisation for responsible and sustainable companies, is involved in the making of the Bill. This organisation claims that the Bill specifies and clarifies what is expected of international business conduct. MVO wants the Dutch Bill to be an example for the rest of the EU, which has caused a lot of discussion in the Netherlands.

Since mandatory due diligence is a sensitive subject which evokes many different reactions, we will write a series of blog posts about it. Before we dive deeper into the Dutch Bill and the European Proposal for a Directive, the first blog of the series is focused on what due diligence is and why institutes are planning on making it mandatory.

Posted in Human rights


Economic Slowdown: Decent Work Deficits Persist, Undermining Social Justice

A look into the World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2023 published by the ILO

It is the beginning of 2023, a time for reflection and estimates. On January 16th, the ILO published a new edition of the World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2023 (WESO 2023), which covers the extent and consequences of overlapping economic and geopolitical crises on the global labour market.


The Impact of Multinational Corporations on Human Rights

How human rights can be protected through regulating corporate activities

Under international law, the protection of human rights is primarily seen as a State responsibility. For example, the Occupational Health and Safety Convention, 1981 (no. 155), forces ratifying States to implement an adequate national policy on occupational safety and health to protect workers. In practice, multinational corporations can be more powerful than some States. 157 of the richest 200 entities in the world are corporations, not governments. Some multinational corporations such as Walmart, Shell and Apple generated more revenue in 2017 than relatively rich countries such as Russia, South Korea and Sweden. 

Corporations can have a negative influence on human rights through their business activities. According to the ILO, fifty million people around the world are currently living in modern slavery. This number has increased by ten million in the past five years. Multinational corporations profit from these illegal labour practices. The ILO has estimated that forced labour generates about one-hundred fifty billion dollars per year for the private, worldwide economy.


Closing the EU-Borders for Products Made With Forced Labour

On the proposal for regulation to ban products made with forced labour on the EU market

Forced labour is an actual problem. According to the latest Global Estimates of modern slavery (issued by the ILO in September 2022), 27.6 million people are in situations of forced labour on any given day, from which 12% are children – and because of limited data, this already alarming percentage may well be just the tip of the iceberg. Furthermore, the number of people in forced labour has increased by 2.7 million between 2016 and 2021. Therefore international organisations – especially the ILO – are still taking actions on a regular basis. For instance, in December 2022 the ILO launched the Forced Labour Observatory (FLO) to develop a global data warehouse on forced labour and trafficking. However, the ILO is not the only organisation to take action. Recently the European Union (EU) also showed commitment to end forced labour.


Connecting CSR With the Work of the CFA?

ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) 70th anniversary, 1952-2022

In honour of the 70th anniversary (1952) of the Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) professor emeritus Paul van der Heijden (International Labour Law) has written a blog post. A summary of his blog can be found below. The whole text can be found here.


Occupational Safety and Health: Is Bangladesh Playing With Fire?

A review of the working conditions in Bangladesh

At the beginning of June 2022, 49 people were killed due to recurrent explosions at a container depot in Sitakunda, Bangladesh. Mislabelled chemicals caused the fire to worsen uncontrollably fast, followed by several explosions. Although this is devastating news, this is not a rare occurrence: Bangladesh has been known for its unsafe working conditions for many years now. According to a review conducted by Fabiha Tasnim, 11.7 thousand workers suffer from fatal accidents. On top of this, 24.5 thousand workers die from indirect complications like work-related diseases.


How the Ukraine Crisis Affects the World of Work

Shedding a light on the ILO’s aid to Ukraine

As we all know, the war in Ukraine has had and continues to have devastating effects. Towns are being bombed, infrastructure is being destroyed and many people are dying. In response to a crisis like this, we naturally look at the United Nations (UN) as it tries its best to fight the humanitarian crisis that has resulted from this war. What is fairly remarkable though, is the fact that the International Labour Organization (ILO) also plays a role in aiding Ukraine during this crisis. At first glance, war is associated with the world of politics, while the ILO focuses on the world of work. To understand why and to what extent the ILO plays a role in this, this blog post will discuss how war can also be a concern for the world of work.


Occupational Safety and Health – A New ‘Human Right at Work’?

Guest entry written by Bas Rombouts – Associate Professor in International Labour Law and Human Rights at Tilburg University

Workers’ rights are at the centre of the debates and developments related to CSR and business ethics policies. A number of these rights are regarded as Fundamental Labour Standards (FLS), which means they are seen as extremely important to protect and respect, in order to secure decent work for everyone in our globalised economy. Recently, the ILO decided to add a new right to this list.


The Widespread Problem of Discrimination

Discrimination: definition and numbers

According to the ILO, discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favorably than others because of characteristics that are not related to the person’s competencies or the inherent requirements of the job. All workers and job seekers have the right to be treated equally, regardless of any attributes other than their ability to do the job. Discrimination may occur before hiring, on the job or upon leaving. Freedom from discrimination is a fundamental human right. It is essential for workers to be able to choose their employment freely, to develop their potential to the full and to be rewarded based on merit. 

The ILO has two conventions considering discrimination. The Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111) and the Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100). Convention 111 identifies as bases of discrimination race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction, social origin. Other ILO instruments list additional grounds: HIV/AIDS, age, disability, family responsibilities, sexual orientation, and trade union membership or activities. Convention 100 promotes the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. This refers to remuneration (ordinary, basic or minimum wage or salary by the employer to the worker and arising out of the worker’s employment) established without discrimination based on gender.

Around the world, finding a job is much tougher for women than it is for men. The current global labour force participation rate (being employed or actively looking for employment) for women is just under 47%, for men it is 72%. On top of that, when women are employed, they tend to work in low-quality jobs in vulnerable conditions, and there is little improvement forecast in the near future. 

A recent example of discrimination of women in the world of work is the situation in Afghanistan where, due to the Taliban takeover on August 15th 2021, women can’t work outside of their homes, are robbed of their right to political participation and can can only travel for 78 kilometres without a male chaperone. Inequality between men and women is a widespread problem. For data behind trends and more information about barriers holding women back from decent work, the ILO made an InfoStory to make it all more comprehensible.

We can conclude from this that discrimination is still a widespread problem which calls for action. Therefore, the ILO has several guides to support equality. For instance, you can read the easy-to-read version of "An inclusive digital economy for people with disabilities" report, the learning guide for inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) persons in the world of work, or the guide for gender equality and women’s empowerment in the world of work in fragile, conflict and disaster settings. Last but not least, our database is a great resource to check if companies support equality in their (supplier) code of conduct.

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