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Business expected to respect human rights – regulation considered both in Finland and at EU level

Linda Piirto Published Date 12.3.2021 8.32 Blog

Kent Wilska and Linda Piirto Debate on regulating responsible business conduct is going strong. Initiatives related to due diligence are in the spotlight. Due diligence refers to the responsibility of companies to prevent adverse impacts on human rights or the environment.

The European Commission has announced that it will present a legislative initiative on sustainable corporate governance and due diligence in the summer of 2021. The German Government has just decided to present national regulation on responsible business conduct and France has passed a national due diligence law already in 2017. There are also ongoing negotiations on a new business and human rights treaty at the UN.

These initiatives aim to solve the problem caused by the fact that some States are either unwilling or incapable of implementing international norms related to human rights, labour rights or environmental protection. The role of business is crucial in these situations. According to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, business enterprises have an independent responsibility to respect human rights, irrespective of States.

Working group supporting the drafting of regulation on responsible business conduct has started its work

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment has appointed a working group to support the drafting of regulation on responsible business conduct. The working group started its work on 10 March 2021. Its task is to support work of the Ministry both on the upcoming EU legislative initiative and on drafting national legislation.

Members of the group represent business, trade unions, academia, and non-governmental organisations. In addition to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, the Ministry of Justice, Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Environment are also represented in the group.

Commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, the judicial study published in the summer of 2020 outlined the nature of the due diligence obligations that could be imposed on companies within the Finnish legislative framework. The work now continues based on the judicial study and stakeholder feedback received on it.

Before the Commission’s legislative initiative is published, the working group will focus on the key issues identified in the judicial study, such as the content of due diligence, scope, reporting, monitoring and sanctions. Reflection on these issues is vital for both the EU and national regulation. The working group has a unique opportunity to offer its constructive input to the official legislative preparatory work.

Kent Wilska, Chair of the working group, Commercial Counsellor, Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Linda Piirto, Senior Advisor, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment

 

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