Monitoring of the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights

04.12.2018 - Article

Within the scope of a monitoring process being carried out between 2018 and 2020, the German Government is reviewing to what extent companies based in Germany are meeting their due diligence obligations anchored in the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights (NAP).

This type of NAP monitoring is the first and so far only measure of its kind in the world.

Importance and aims of the monitoring process

The objective of the NAP is for at least half of all companies in Germany with more than 500 employees to have integrated the core elements of human rights due diligence into their business processes by 2020. This group comprises a total of around 7100 companies.

The German Government will examine the state of implementation in three stages in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

The outcome of the monitoring process will then form the basis on which it will decide in 2020 which further steps to take in the sphere of business and human rights. These steps can include legislative measures.

Transparency and expertise

Apprentice using a metal-boring tool
Apprentice using a metal-boring tool© Liesa Johannssen/photothek.net

The German Government is keen to make the monitoring process transparent and to base it on methodologically sound academic standards. A nuanced evaluation system will ensure that the reviewed requirements regarding the content and implementation of the core elements by the companies are reasonable. The evaluations will be anonymised and comply with applicable data processing legislation.

The Federal Foreign Office has commissioned the audit firm Ernst & Young, which won the contract in an EU-wide tender in May 2018, to carry out the surveys. Ernst & Young is leading a consortium which also comprises Systain Consulting, Adelphi consult and Focusright.

All ministries in the Interministerial Committee on Business and Human Rights are closely involved in the design and support of the monitoring process. Trade associations, trade unions and civil society are also advising the Federal Foreign Office on this process. The approach and results will be presented on numerous occasions to a wider public at several dialogue events.

Call for companies to take part

Useful findings about the state of NAP implementation can only be gained if the companies provide substantial information during the monitoring process. In a letter sent by five Federal Ministers on behalf of the Interministerial Committee on Business and Human Rights in November 2018, the German Government asked all companies included in the NAP monitoring process to take part in the survey. The letter was signed by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, Federal Economic Affairs Minister Peter Altmaier, Federal Labour Minister Hubertus Heil and Federal Development Minister Gerd Müller. The trade associations have also agreed to encourage their members to participate in the monitoring process. The trade unions are planning to inform works councils about the call for participation.

Exploratory survey phase of the 2018 NAP monitoring proces

The preparatory survey phase of the monitoring process began in September 2018.  The Inception Report served as the basis for work during this phase. This report also includes an outline of the plans for the survey phases in 2019 and 2020. The Federal Foreign Office adopted the Inception Report, which was presented by the consortium tasked with carrying out the monitoring, on 4 September 2018 after consulting the Interministerial Committee on Business and Human Rights.

Around 30 companies were surveyed in detail in autumn 2018 in order to gain qualitative insights into experiences, progress and problems relating to the implementation of human rights due diligence. At this stage, producing representative statistics is not the aim.

The focus will be on findings that facilitate the development of a high-quality survey instrument (questionnaire) and a reliable assessment standard for the follow-up surveys in 2019 and 2020.

In the first stage, companies from the target group (firms based in Germany with more than 500 employees) were selected. As regards their size and the sector to which they belong, they represented the widest possible range of typical characteristics of German business. The surveys were conducted confidentially. The findings of the exploratory survey phase will be published in an interim report in spring 2019.

2019-2020 survey stages of the NAP monitoring process

In 2019 and 2020, the surveys will be based on representative random samples from companies headquartered in Germany with more than 500 employees. Different companies will be selected each time, thus ensuring that the samples are not identical.

NAP monitoring: a closer look at the corporate world
NAP monitoring: a closer look at the corporate world© Liesa Johannssen/photothek.net

The requirements with regard to human rights due diligence anchored in the NAP are considered to be implemented if a company has introduced all five core elements of human rights due diligence to an adequate extent. The monitoring also takes into account the possibility that a company may have reasonable grounds for not being affected by individual risks or for not (yet) implementing certain procedures or measures. The questionnaire will provide for a comply or explain mechanism for such cases.

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