The business sector’s role in ensuring respect for human rights is gaining increased importance. Normative frameworks, such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), require companies to respect human rights and to ensure access to remedies for adverse human rights impacts. We are now witnessing a global shift towards mandatory legislation regarding human rights due diligence for businesses in the UNGPs’ spirit, requiring companies to identify, prevent and mitigate human rights risks.
In several countries, human rights due diligence legislation of some sort has already been proposed or adopted. France is one of the trailblazers in this area with its Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law. Other countries that have adopted human rights due diligence legislation include the UK, the Netherlands and Australia. Legislative proposals have been seen in Germany, Norway and beyond. Human rights due diligence was also, as a part of the Swiss Responsible Business Initiative, subject to a referendum in Switzerland in late November last year.
In Sweden, there are no human rights due diligence legislation in place. However, the civil society, trade unions and businesses are calling for such legislation to be adopted. The Swedish Agency for Public Management recommended the government already in 2018 to investigate the possibilities for human rights due diligence legislation.
In Finland, the situation for legislation is the same as in Sweden. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment ordered from a consultancy firm a legal report for a possible corporate compliance act. The Ministry has issued a request for comments on this report, whose due date was 30 September last year. The Ministry will decide on further steps on that basis. According to this report, the human rights due diligence legislation was seen possible to be passed in Finland, but its scope, monitoring, sanctions as well as time for entry into force should be considered.