25 May 2018
New IOE paper on State policy responses on human rights due diligence

Dear Members and Partners,


Today, the IOE is releasing its new paper on State policy responses on human rights due diligence.


Human rights due diligence is an increasing focus area for policy makers. We observe a growing narrative which asserts that for States to meet their human rights duties means they should create new regulation to mandate companies to carry out human rights due diligence (either in full or in the form of public disclosure) on their activities and supply chains. This approach to policy making raises many risks, challenges and concerns which the IOE paper notes.


The IOE paper includes the following information:

  • Executive Summary.
  • What is human rights due diligence?
  • What the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights recommend about State policy and regulatory measures.
  • Examples of State policy measures.
  • Twelve risks, concerns and challenges regarding the move towards mandatory human rights due diligence laws:
    • It is crucial not to blur State duties and business responsibility;
    • Foreign-imposed legal "solutions" are unlikely to address deep-rooted and complex human rights challenges in many States;
    • Laws can represent a de facto embargo, undermine business engagement in regions with developmental challenges, and run counter to the UNGPs' spirit;
    • Laws encourage companies to take a passive, risk-averse approach that limits the potential for creative partnerships and transformative impact;
    • It is not easy or necessarily desirable to translate the human rights due diligence process into laws;
    • There are important questions and concerns over judicial interpretation and enforcement;
    • Laws unfairly target a select number of companies and misunderstand the nature of global business;
    • Concerns over how legal compliance measures will impact on different types of companies up and down the value chain, especially SMEs;
    • Laws on specific human rights topics pre-judge company due diligence efforts;
    • A spaghetti soup of laws creates confusion and potential misalignment of standards and approaches;
    • Laws often ignore the role of States as an economic actor in their own right; and
    • No evidence that laws have any impact on a critical stakeholder group: end consumers / high-street shoppers. 

  • The importance of voluntary action and soft-law standards.
  • Suggestions for future policy responses.
  • Annex: Examples of legal developments and other policy measures that have regulatory effect.

This paper is publicly-available. We encourage members to use it in their advocacy and engagement on human rights and, of course, the IOE will use it in our work including by sending to the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights for its 2018 report to the UN General Assembly (due in the autumn).


We thank members for their input and help in drafting this paper.


Kind regards,


Peter Hall
Adviser, Human Rights

Download the paper here:
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