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European Union commitment to introduce legally binding corporate human rights and environmental due diligence: Implications for Canada – Policy Brief

May 13, 2020

Purpose

Part of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise’s (CORE) approach to promoting the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGP) on Business and Human Rights is to regularly inform our public, private, and plural stakeholders of global developments in implementation and their implications for Canada. This includes analyzing relevant gender dimensions that can be integrated into human rights due diligence (HRDD) practices, which allows us to fulfill our commitment to integrate gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) into all governmental policies.

This brief provides a summary of a study by the European Commission on due diligence requirements through the supply chain (1) and key points regarding the relevance of its findings to Canada.

Background

The CORE’s four-part mandate “promote, advise, review, and recommend” was created in the context of Canada’s endorsement of the UNGPs, which is among other things, a blueprint to assist Member States in meeting their legislative obligations regarding ratified international human rights and labour treaties (2). Within the UNGPs framework “protect, respect, and remedy”, Canada has taken the following steps in implementation:

On April 29, 2020, the European Union (EU) Commissioner for Justice committed to introducing legislation on mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence obligations for EU Companies in early 2021. The statement was made during a webinar organized by the EU Responsible Business Conduct Working GroupFootnote 2 to discuss the findings of a comprehensive study on due diligence requirements throughout the supply chain completed for the European Commission.

This study highlights the increasing uptake and implementation of the UNGPs among governments in the EU, particularly the legislative requirement for businesses to ensure HRDD are integrated in their operations. This trend reflects an emerging consensus among businesses, governments, and civil society organizations. The findings of this study may inform consideration of Bill S-211 and implementation of the UNGPs.

Considerations

Relevance of the study

Key findings of the EC study

Creation of state oversight and enforcement bodies (EU and/or state level), either within or independent of state departments, with powers to issue enforcement measures like fines, appointing monitors, withdrawing licenses or trade concessions, or company dissolution, as well as criminal sanctions.

Conclusions

Relevance for Canada

Other Resources

References

  1. European Commission. (2020). Study on due diligence requirements through the supply chain.
  2. United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. (2014). If the guiding principles are not a legal instrument, are they just voluntary? In “Frequently asked questions about the guiding principles on business and human rights”.
  3. Government of Canada: Human rights treaties. (Updated 2019).
  4. Parliament of Canada, First Session, 43rd Parliament. (2020). Bill S-211: An Act to enact the Modern Slavery Act and to amend the Customs Tariff.
  5. Government of Canada: Justice Law Website. Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act (S.C. 2014, c. 39, s. 376) Accessed on May 12, 2020
  6. Parliament of Canada. (2018). Bill C-423 An Act respecting the fight against certain forms of modern slavery through the imposition of certain measures and amending the Customs Tariff.
  7. Government of Canada - International trade and investment. (2019). Background: Gender-based analysis plus.
  8. Strandberg Consulting. (2019). Corporate social responsibility in Canada: trends, barriers and opportunities.
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