Towards Responsible Banking – A Report on the Doing Business Right Roundtable at the T.M.C. Asser Instituut on 2 November

On Thursday (2 November), the T.M.C. Asser Instituut hosted a roundtable on the role of financial institutions in ensuring responsible business conduct and, in particular, fostering respect for human rights. The discussion focused on the Dutch Banking Sector Agreement on international responsible business conduct regarding human rights (DBSA or Agreement), including details of its key features and the practicalities of its implementation, alongside the theme of responsible banking more generally. More...

Doing Business Right – Monthly Report – October 2017. By Catherine Dunmore

Editor's note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on transnational business regulation based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @DoinBizRight. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked. More...

Is HEINEKEN truly “Brewing a Better World”? The BRALIMA case before the Dutch National Contact Point - By Constance Kwant

Editor’s note: Constance Kwant is an experienced international lawyer who has worked as in-house senior legal counsel for a top tier international financial institution in both Hong Kong and the Netherlands. She has a specific interest in sustainable business and human rights, including responsible finance.

 

Introduction

This post aims to outline, briefly analyse and to provide a critical comment in relation to striking a balance between confidentiality and transparency in the procedure followed by the Dutch National Contact Point (‘NCP’) in the Specific instance procedure filed in December 2015 by three former employees (‘Representatives’) on behalf of a group of 168 former employees of Heineken’s subsidiary Bralima SA (‘Bralima’) in Bakavu, located in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (‘DRC’).

The case, finalised in August 2017, concerns alleged violations of labour and human rights by Bralima in the period 1999-2003, a period during which the DRC was a highly volatile and conflict-affected country, where the eastern part of the DRC was effectively under control of rebel movement DRC-Goma.The complaint also alleged that Bralima had cooperated with DRC-Goma in a number of ways throughout this period. On the basis of the alleged violations, the Representatives sought financial compensation by filing its notification with the NCP.

Since the allegations were brought forward to the NCP under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, this post will first provide short background information on the OECD Guidelines and the workings of the Dutch NCP, subsequently moving through the proceedings, its outcome, and a brief analysis with a critical note. More...

FIFA's Human Rights Agenda: Is the Game Beautiful Again? – By Tomáš Grell

Editor’s note: Tomáš Grell holds an LL.M. in Public International Law from Leiden University. He contributes to the work of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre as a research intern.

 

Concerns about adverse human rights impacts related to FIFA's activities have intensified ever since its late 2010 decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cup to Russia and Qatar respectively. However, until recently, the world's governing body of football had done little to eliminate these concerns, thereby encouraging human rights advocates to exercise their critical eye on FIFA. 

In response to growing criticism, the Extraordinary FIFA Congress, held in February 2016, decided to include an explicit human rights commitment in the revised FIFA Statutes which came into force in April 2016. This commitment is encapsulated in Article 3 which reads as follows: ''FIFA is committed to respecting all internationally recognized human rights and shall strive to promote the protection of these rights''. At around the same time, Professor John Ruggie, the author of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights ('UN Guiding Principles') presented in his report 25 specific recommendations for FIFA on how to further embed respect for human rights across its global operations. While praising the decision to make a human rights commitment part of the organization's constituent document, Ruggie concluded that ''FIFA does not have yet adequate systems in place enabling it to know and show that it respects human rights in practice''.[1]

With the 2018 World Cup in Russia less than a year away, the time is ripe to look at whether Ruggie's statement about FIFA's inability to respect human rights still holds true today. This blog outlines the most salient human rights risks related to FIFA's activities and offers a general overview of what the world's governing body of football did over the past twelve months to mitigate these risks. Information about FIFA's human rights activities is collected primarily from its Activity Update on Human Rights published alongside FIFA's Human Rights Policy in June 2017. More...

Who is afraid of a binding treaty? Stumbling Blocks on the Accountability of Transnational Corporations by Sara Martinetto

Editor's note: Sara Martinetto is an intern at T.M.C. Asser Institute. She has recently completed her LLM in Public International Law at the University of Amsterdam. She holds interests in Migration Law, Criminal Law, Human Rights and European Law, with a special focus on their transnational dimension.

 

Since the adoption by the UN Human Rights Council of Resolution 26/9 in 2014, an Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group (WG) is working on a binding Treaty capable of holding transnational corporations accountable for human rights abuses. Elaborating on the proposal presented by Ecuador and South Africa, the WG has been holding periodical sessions. In much trepidation for what is supposed to be the start of substantive negotiations – scheduled for October 23-27, 2017 – it is worth summarising and highlighting the struggles this new instrument is likely to encounter, and investigating whether (and how) such an agreement could foster transnational corporations’ (TNCs) human rights compliance. More...

Doing Business Right Event! Supply chain regulation in the garment industry on 29 June @Asser Institute

The negative impact on human rights of what we wear is not always well-known to the consumer. Our clothing consumption has increased over five times since the Nineties. At the same time, the business model of certain fashion brands is too often dependent on widespread human rights and labour rights violations to be profitable, cheap, and fast. The 2013 tragedy of Rana Plaza, where more than 1100 garment workers died, gives us just a small hint of the true costs of our clothes and footwear. Efforts by governments to tame the negative effects of transnational supply chains have proven difficult due to the extreme delocalisation of production, and the difficulty to even be aware of a company’s last tier of suppliers in certain developing countries. More...

Why Doing Business Right?

Doing Business has been a (if not the) core concern for the post-WWII world order, leading up to contemporary economic globalisation and the ‘free’ movement of goods, capital and ideas across the globe. With our research project, and the launch of this companion blog, we aim to shift the focus towards Doing Business Right. Thanks to the financial crisis in 2008, there is growing awareness of the fact that Doing Business can lead to extremely adverse social and economic consequences. The trust in Doing Business as a cure-all to modernize, democratize, or civilize the world is fading. Moreover, the damaging externalities prompted by the operation of transnational economic activity are more and more visible. It has become harder, nowadays, to ignore the environmental and social consequences triggered elsewhere by our consumption patterns or by our reliance on certain energy industries. What does Doing Business Right mean? How does the law respond to the urge to do business right? What are the legal mechanisms used, or that could be used, to ensure that business is done in the right way? Can transnational business activity even be subjected to law in a globalized world?

This blog will offer an academic platform for scholars and practitioners interested in these questions. With your help we aim to investigate the multiple legal and regulatory constructs affecting transnational business conduct - ranging from public international law to internal corporate practices. We will do so by hosting in-depth case studies, but also more theoretical takes on the normative underpinnings of the idea of Doing Business Right. We aim to be inclusive in methodological terms, and believe that private and public, as well as national and international, legal (and...) scholars should come together to tackle a genuinely transnational phenomenon. Future posts will cover issues as diverse as national, EU, international, transnational regulations - including self-regulation, voluntary codes, and market-based regulatory instruments  - applying to transnational business conduct. Case law from the CJEU, international tribunals (ICJ, arbitral tribunals) and national courts, as well as decisions from international organisations, national agencies (such as competition authorities) will be recurring objects of discussion and analysis. Yet, our perspective is not solely focused on the (traditional) law: management practices of  companies and their effects will also be scrutinized.

This blog is thought as an open discursive space to engage and debate with a wide variety of actors and perspectives. We hope to get the attention of those who care about Doing Business Right, and to provide useful intellectual and legal weapons for their endeavours.

The Editors:

Antoine Duval is a Senior researcher at the Asser Institute since 2014. He holds a PhD from the European University Institute in Florence in which he scrutinized the interaction between EU law and the transnational private regulation of world sport, the lex sportiva. His research is mainly focused on transnational legal theory, international arbitration, and private regulation.  

Enrico Partiti is researcher at the Asser Institute since 2017. He holds a PhD from the University of Amsterdam on private standards for sustainability. His research interest lies at the intersection of EU and international economic law on the one hand, and private regulation for sustainability on the other. He studies the interactions and reciprocal influence between transnational public and private norms, and how they determine and impact on social and environmental sustainability in global value chains.