The United Nations adopted its Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in 2011. Since then, the concept of ‘corporate due diligence’ has grown as a way to address the impact of business on the environment and human rights and initiate processes to avoid, mitigate or redress violations. Corporate ‘due diligence’ relates mainly to activities that could result in human rights violations. There is no explicit mention of environmental responsibility. These two aspects are typically handled separately in practice, as well.
However, the protection of the environment and of human rights overlaps in many respects. In addition, expanding the concept of ‘due diligence’ to include the environment can help develop holistic management systems that simplify and standardise the handling of both types of risk. The Federal Environment Agency commissioned adelphi, Systain Consulting and Schweizer Legal to carry out a study that analysed the significant (potentially) negative environmental issues and human rights impacts in the value chains of eight industries. The aims of the project: to advance the German government’s efforts in terms of compliance with environmental obligations on the part of companies in Germany; and to develop an integrated understanding of environmental and human rights due diligence.
- In a study of eight industries, the project will record, categorise and evaluate environmental risks.
- At the same time, the project will examine previous national and international activities and regulations related to environmental due diligence on an industry-specific basis and explore the specific characteristics of the value chain in order to identify key influence factors on the environment.
- The aim is to establish links to human rights risks and issues so as to highlight the interaction between humans and the environment as well as the importance of a holistic understanding of due diligence. The project also intends to emphasise the need to consider environmental issues separately.
Based on the results of the study, the project partners will develop proposals for environmental and sustainability management in the industry-specific value chains. These are intended to serve as a foundation to help companies avoid or reduce environmental and human rights risks. The project will also develop tools that enable companies to adapt their environmental and sustainability management to the concept of due diligence.