On 6 December 2021, the Netherlands became the latest European government to announce plans to introduce mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD) legislation at a national level, adding to a growing movement and proliferation of national HREDD laws. This puts the Netherlands in the company of the likes of France, Germany and Norway (which have enacted or adopted such laws) and Austria, Belgium and Switzerland, among others (which are progressing their own national HREDD laws).

This development comes despite further delay on the publication of HREDD legislation at an EU level (see our previous Blog Post). On 6 December 2021, the Dutch Foreign Trade and Development minister said that he was “very disappointed” at the European Commission’s further delay to introduce EU mandatory HREDD legislation and announced the Dutch Government’s plans to develop and introduce a national HREDD law instead.

Previously, on 5 November 2021, the Netherlands published a non-paper (Non-Paper) on mandatory HREDD stressing the importance of effective and ambitious due diligence at an EU level and set out its view on necessary building blocks for this to be implemented in practice. The Non-Paper expressed the Dutch government’s preference for the European Commission to introduce its own law to safeguard a “level playing field” for EU companies and stressed the important of “coherence” between the anticipated EU mandatory HREDD legislation and existing laws, as a “lack of coherence may lead to duplication of obligations or legal uncertainty for companies.”

Amidst delay at EU level, the Netherlands has decided to progress its own national HREDD legislation. While a proposal of the draft law is yet to be published, the responsible minister has indicated that the Dutch legislation will be broader in scope and more stringent than similar laws in other jurisdictions such as Germany, France and the UK.  The Dutch government has also indicated that it wants to act swiftly, so companies may soon have another HREDD law to contend with among the emerging patchwork of laws imposing human rights and supply chain legal obligations on companies.

How can your organisation prepare for increasing due diligence obligations?

Generally, businesses can position themselves for the anticipated EU-wide law and other mHRDD laws emerging at the domestic level by:

  1. Integrating human rights into group policies and strategic planning processes;
  2. Disclosing how human rights considerations are integrated into strategies, policies and procedures;
  3. Carrying out a human rights impact assessment and taking proportionate counter-measures, as well as communicating internally and externally on what measures have been taken;
  4. Reviewing and reinforcing complaints mechanisms and speak-up programmes;
  5. Ensuring the business is well equipped to deal with ‘crises’;
  6. Reviewing the extent to which their board is equipped to address supply chain risks; and
  7. Reviewing the role, resources and expertise of the legal and compliance functions, who should play a key part in addressing these new challenges.

Read more of our Business and Human Rights perspectives here.

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