No agreement on human rights standards for suppliers of German companies

On 21.10.2016, the Federal Government adopted its National Action Plan on the Implementation of the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights (NAP). The plan foresees that by 2020, at least half of all large companies, ie companies with more than 500 employees, will be voluntarily responsible for compliance with human rights throughout the entire supply chain. The plan was developed under the auspices of the Federal Foreign Office and in cooperation with business associations, trade union representatives and experts from civil society actors (( From 2018 onwards, compliance with the requirements will be tested by random sampling, if these requirements are not met by all eligible companies from 2020 onwards, the Federal Government is considering examining and implementing legal regulations ((

A first agreement on how exactly these requirements should be implemented is supposed to be achieved by the companies before the Bundestag election, but this aim has failed due to some company representatives predicting a change of government. For example, the plan is unlikely to be ambitiously pursued by a black-yellow coalition (CDU and FDP), or legislation could not be applied, or could be made inadequately ((

Critics has long considered the NAP as inadequate, it remains behind the efforts of other countries, especially with respect to transparency and procedural regulations for companies. (( Amnesty International, Bread for the World, Germanwatch and Misereor, who have been involved in the drafting of the plan, continue to criticise the fact that not even the property of the Federal Republic of Germany, or the recipients of public contracts, subsidies or foreign trade promotion, must comply with the obligation of human rights due diligence.

In the Bundestag, a corresponding legal regulation on the human rights obligations of German companies has already been discussed. The Greens and “Linken” argue for a legal basis, as well as a requirement that companies have to carry out a risk analysis of human rights violations which must be made public. The CDU / CSU and the SPD, however, rejected this bill, they are committed to self-commitment or want to continue to monitor developments on the part of the companies ((

It remains to be seen how the implementation of the 31 UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights is being shaped by the German economy. Whether a lack of voluntary implementation by the companies from 2020 is to be expected with a legal regulation is questionable and probably depends not least on the outcome of the Bundestag election.