A practical training for companies May 18, 2017 Amsterdam

Human Rights Due Diligence & the supply chain – in practice 

Human Rights @Work invites you to a hands-on training on the UN Guiding Principle for Business and Human Rights. The training will be organized in cooperation with Enact Sustainable Strategies.  Our training will focus on conducting Human Rights Due Diligence and the training in the supply chain. We will train participants on applying the principles to real situations, learning from leading company experience from different industries and how to avoid common pitfalls.

Why Human Rights Due Diligence in the supply chain?

As companies are facing pressures from investors, legislators, stakeholders and unions to align their operating practices with global norms, they are pushed to apply due diligence of complete value chains and not only their own activities.

Global norms require companies to prioritise human rights impacts based on how they pose risk to affected stakeholders and not how they affect corporate reputation, legal or financial standing. In other words, companies cannot only prioritise their supply chain management based on high-spend suppliers or high risk countries but need to understand how contractors affect local communities various tiers down. But it is not unmanageable! One just needs to think of risk from new perspectives by putting oneself into the shoes of the people on the ground. And walk a little. Our training aims to do exactly that. Help you understand how to focus on risks to people and jot business – and what to do when you return to work.

Conducting human rights due diligence in the supply chain will equip a company to manage human rights risks timely which in itself may avoid unpleasant surprises (of media scandals or NGO-exposures). A strategic approach to human rights ensures that risk management is not only about addressing risk threats but also finding and expanding on business opportunities. We offer you the opportunity to learn and to be inspired!


Our training

We offer a professional and highly practical training for a limited number of participants. The training will cover:

  • The basics of human rights due diligence
  • Applying due diligence to complex supply chains and in complex markets
  • Sector specific workshops: practice with mapping and identifying high human rights risk in global supply chains of electronics, finance and retail
  • Learning from global leaders on how to prioritise and address human rights in the supply chain
  • Case exercise to address and monitor impacts in the supply chain (what to do practically once back in the office)
  • An overview of legislative reporting requirements on human rights
  • Latest trends on human rights and supply chains

Our approach to training is based on inspiration, interaction and practical implementation. This means that we inspire our participants, engage them through innovative interaction exercises and discussions with each other and let participants work on practical implementation through case-exercises.
Participants will develop an action plan on how to apply their newly acquired knowledge when they return to their workplace.

The training is held in English.


Due Diligence – increasingly a legal requirement

Various legislative initiatives require disclosures on human rights specific issues, such as the draft Dutch ‘Wet ZorgplichtKinderarbeid’ law, the UK Modern Slavery Act and the French draft law on corporate human rights in supply chains.


What is Human Rights Due Diligence?

A human rights due diligence is essentially a risk management process by which a company prevents, addresses and accounts for its adverse human rights impacts. The process is conducted in four steps:


  1. assessing human rights impacts;
  2. integrating findings and responding to impacts;
  3. tracking performance; and
  4. communicating about how impacts are addressed.

Who is this training relevant for?

Staff of companies with regional or global supply chains. Organisations working on CSR with an interest for human rights. The training is open to participants with some prior knowledge in human rights and participants with no prior knowledge.


About the trainers

Sandra Atler is a human rights lawyer and internationally recognized expert on business and human rights with fifteen years of experience in the field. Sandra was part of Professor John Ruggie’s team in the development of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. She was chair of the NGO-caucus in the development of ISO 26000 Guidance Standard on Social Responsibility, a core member of the international standard drafting team, and co-chaired the ad-hoc working group on human rights for five years. Today Sandra is the Director of Enact’s Human Rights & Business Practice Group. Sandra is also a Lecturer and Course Director for Business and Human Rights at the Faculty of Law at Stockholm University. Sandra has vast experience of human rights training and advising companies on human rights.


Liesbeth Unger is the founder of Human Rights@Work, a consultancy specialized in human rights and business. Liesbeth has a long and broad experience (over 20 years) with labour rights, CSR and human rights, including working for the ILO in South East Asia for five years. She works with different actors, such as companies, NGOs, government and international organisations on human rights impact assessment and due diligence offering advice and training. This gives her an in-depth understanding of different perspectives of stakeholders. She has provided and developed tailored made training on human rights and due diligence on several occasions.


Practical details

The training takes place on May 18 2017, in Amsterdam, James Wattstraat 100. As this a highly interactive and participatory training, the number of participants is limited. Costs for the training (including lunch and drinks) is 499 euros excluding VAT. If you book before April 17th, we will offer a discount of 50%. The training will be conducted in English. Additional discounts are available to not-for-profit organisations.



Due Diligence on Child Labour; new law in the Netherlands

Due Diligence on Child Labour; new law in the Netherlands


Broad support in parliament

Last Tuesday (7 of February) the Dutch parliament approved a new law, the Due Diligence Child Labour. The law was initiated by the Labour Party (PvdA) and after some amendments received broad support in Parliament.

Only the Liberal Party (VVD), the Freedom Party (PVV of Wilders), and the Christian Party (CDA) voted against the law. Just in time before the elections in March.


For companies selling to Dutch consumers

The law applies not only to companies registered in the Netherlands, it also applies to companies that sell to a Dutch consumer). The government can make an exception for certain categories of companies from this law, where the risk of child labour is very low.


Due diligence

Due diligence under this law means, first assessing whether one can reasonably presume child labour has contributed to this product or service. For the quality of this assessment, the law refers to a recent guide of the ILO and the IOE (International Organisation for Employers): Child Labour Guidance for Business.

If one can reasonably presume child labour has contributed to this product or service, a company is expected to make a plan of action in line with international guidelines (UNGP or OECD) to prevent this contribution. The government can later determine some quality criteria for this plan of action.

The government can approve a joint plan of action in cooperation with civil society organisations. In that case a company implementing this plan of action, is assured it is implementing due diligence.



A company has to declare it has applied due diligence on child labour and send this declaration to the Supervisory Body (to be appointed), six month after this law enters into force (1 January 2020). These declarations will be published on the website of the Supervisory Body. The goal of this legislation is to protect Dutch consumers. They should be able to assume that products and services are sold by companies which, within their means do everything that can reasonably expected, to carry out due diligence to prevent child labour. It is due diligence that is compulsory, it is not a guarantee that a product is free from child labour, as this is impossible to enforce.


Not a boycott

The risk of this legislation is that companies will try to find an easy way out and start sourcing from countries with low risk of child labour. Another way out would be to avoid suppliers where child labour might be a problem. While actually we would like companies to use their leverage with their plan of action to improve the situation for children in their supply chain. The quality criteria for a plan of action should clarify that due diligence is not seen as avoiding but as taking responsibility.


Enforcement and complaints

There is a fine on not sending in a Declaration, although that should be seen as a symbolic one:  €4100. However, five years not sending in the Declaration and having been fined, can lead to imprisonment.

Any stakeholder can file a complaint with the Supervisory body about the Declaration. When it appears the company has not applied due diligence in line with this legislation, it can be fined. When still not implementing due diligence within five years, can lead to imprisonment.



This is the first time in the Netherlands due diligence becomes compulsory. Hopefully this will lead to more due diligence in relation to child labour and not to risk avoidance. It will also be applicable to companies selling to Dutch consumers online, which may raise awareness with a new group of companies. The Fund against Child Labour is currently open for companies in the Netherlands to receive support for carrying out due diligence. Companies may not have encountered child labour in their supply chain yet, however in several sectors there is a real risk, it is there.


Liesbeth Unger is the founder of Human Rights@Work, a consultancy on Human Rights and Business. Among others, she advises government, companies and civil society on due diligence and child labour.

Words and actions: lessons from Unilever’s supply chain

Five years ago, Oxfam and Unilever agreed to an unusual collaboration. Oxfam conducted a study on labour rights in Unilever’s Vietnam supply chain and operations. Liesbeth Unger asks, why did Unilever do it? How did they perform? And what can other companies seeking to improve their labour rights credentials learn from this study?

You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do” (C.G. Jung)

Vietnam rice field

Why did Unilever expose itself again?

The new Oxfam Unilever progress report on labour rights in Vietnam is out. Unilever has provided Oxfam with all the necessary information to assess its performance on labour rights in practice.

Since the first report was published in 2013, Unilever has presented itself as a leader in social impact and human rights. It has developed a human rights policy and published a Human Rights Report. However, at least once a year, the media report about a human rights issue linked to Unilever products, including child labour in tea plantations.

Oxfam has also identified problems around wages, collective bargaining and gender inequality, persisting both in Unilever Vietnam’s own factory and with that of its suppliers. There’s plenty of room for improvement.
Honesty and openness make you vulnerable. So why is Unilever engaging in such a research exercise with Oxfam again? If Unilever were such a fantastic marketing machine, as some say, why would it expose itself in such a way? Is this also marketing?


What Unilever is doing benefits them on two counts. Firstly, it confirms their leadership, not so much in performance on human rights but in transparency and willingness to learn. Secondly, it improves Unilever’s risk management. Not only by preventing human rights risks but by improving its understanding of how an important stakeholder such as Oxfam looks at these issues. Despite Unilever’s improved risk management on human rights, Oxfam’s assessment identifies risks Unilever didn’t know it had.


How did Unilever perform?

Respecting human rights is about doing the right thing and doing things right. We read in the report about a company that has committed itself to do the right things. However, it is also about a company that is on a journey to discover how to do these things right. Let me give two examples:


  1. Convincing suppliers to respect international human rights

International human rights sometimes go beyond national law or at least beyond national custom. Unilever’s Responsible Sourcing Policy is filled with doing the right things, such as paying fair compensation, respecting freedom of association, etc.


Training is a first step Unilever has taken. Not only did they train the suppliers themselves, they also trained their own procurement staff. Awareness has increased. What did not happen, however, was getting suppliers to really understand why this is important for their own business. They fear cost increases and Unilever is not willing to pay for these costs, or to reward them with incentives (yet). I therefore wonder whether Unilever sees the business case itself. Is it really fundamental to the way they do business, as they claim in the Human Rights Report? If this is the case, they will need to reconcile commercial and human rights requirements and show suppliers how to do the same.


  1. Ensuring a living wage is being paid

In the first report, Oxfam advised Unilever to commit to a living wage, as they found workers even in Unilever’s own factory who could not make ends meet. Unilever took up the challenge and approved a Fair Compensation Framework in late 2015 to deliver fair compensation across its operations by 2020. Although Oxfam found that wages for Unilever Vietnam’s blue collar workers increased significantly (48%) over the four year period, it also found that some workers were still struggling to make ends meet. Unilever requires suppliers to pay the minimum wage and work towards a good practice of a living wage. No evidence was found that action by Unilever had increased wages in the supply chain.


Ensuring that all workers earn wages that meet their basic needs is not so easy when the underlying business model remains the same, as Oxfam also points out. Is Unilever prepared to understand this and address this barrier?


What can other companies learn from Unilever’s journey?

The report has many interesting details and learning points for other companies and those seeking to influence them. For example:


  • For companies who are hesitant to speak out and show a strong commitment: it is possible to explain to stakeholders that you cannot get there tomorrow. It needs time and a process has to be in place. Be transparent about this.
  • An effective grievance mechanism is a strong instrument with the potential to get burning issues out in the open. Trust is key. Many existing mechanisms are not trusted by workers and are therefore not used.
  • Show the business case for human rights to suppliers.
  • Workers, especially vulnerable workers (blue collar workers with dependents, migrants, women), are important sources of information. Listening to them is key when you want to do the right things right.
  • Contract labour in Unilever’s own operation and supply chain has been successfully reduced. For the supply chain, this was done by monitoring and checking by UVN procurement to ensure suppliers’ production could be done in legal working hours.



The challenge for Unilever now is to show us again how it will use Oxfam’s recommendations.


Mensenrechten/Kinderrechten en Duurzaam Toerisme



Op 2 juni vond de jaarlijkse  Groeneveld Conferentie, hét jaarlijkse congres op het gebied van duurzaamheid en MVO in de toeristische sector. Dit jaar was er ook een speciale workshop  over mensenrechten en kinderrechten in toerisme. In samenwerking met UNICEF, ECPAT en PLAN Nederland. In dit overzicht kan je vinden wat deze organisaties doen.

EU Conference on Business and Human Rights

11 May 20

EU Roadmap on Business and Human Rights





Decision makers, politicians, business leaders, NGOs, trade unions, and researchers  met in Amsterdam to discuss ways to advance the implementation of the Business and Human Rights agenda of the European Union

At the same time, it was also the celebration of five year anniversary of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), which provide the EU with important tools to achieve business respect for human rights.