A number of bodies are involved in efforts to implement the National Action Plan.
The German Government has set up an Interministerial Committee on Business and Human Rights under the auspices of the Federal Foreign Office. Its objective is to verify the implementation and coherence of the adopted measures and drive forward the development of the NAP process.
Among other activities, the Committee initiates and supports the evaluation of the status of implementation of the elements of human rights due diligence by companies set out in the NAP.
Prof. John Ruggie, then Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises (2006-2011) and Chair of the non-profit organisation Shift, spoke to the Director-General for Economic Affairs of the Federal Foreign Office and attended a meeting of the Committee. On his visit to the Federal Foreign Office, he said the following:
During my visit to Berlin, I was pleased to learn about steps Germany is taking to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, including through its National Action Plan. One notable provision in that Plan concerns the need for enterprises to exercise effective human rights due diligence. If 50 percent of enterprises with more than 500 employees do not have such systems in place, the Government will consider further action, which may culminate in legislative measures. The focus now shifts to how the provisions of the Plan will be put into practice.
The Committee is advised in its activities by the German Government’s National Corporate Social Responsibility Forum under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The Corporate Social Responsibility Forum’s business and human rights working group supports the Committee’s activities and makes recommendations to the German Government on the implementation and further development of the NAP process. It is made up of representatives from the world of politics and business, as well as trade unions, civil society and academia.
Monitoring the status of implementation
One of the Committee’s important tasks is to initiate and support a review of the status of implementation of human rights due diligence by companies. The National Action Plan elucidates the concept of due diligence with reference to five core elements.
From 2018, the German Government will review the status of implementation of human rights due diligence by companies annually on the basis of random samples. The NAP’s objective is for at least half of all companies in Germany with more than 500 employees to have integrated elements regarding the implementation of human rights due diligence into their business processes by 2020.
Companies that fail to implement certain procedures and measures should be given an opportunity to explain why they have not done so (the so-called “comply or explain” mechanism). If this target is not met, the German Government will examine further steps, including legislative measures, to ensure that human rights are protected in supply and value chains.
Companies can find further information, in particular regarding advisory and support services that are already in place, on the central website of the German Government on business and human rights.