“Give banks and companies clear guidelines on their human rights responsibilities”

Published 17 November 2017

Clear guidelines should be set for banks and companies so that they can live up to their responsibilities concerning human rights. This was one of the suggestions during the roundtable on responsible banking, hosted by the T.M.C. Asser Instituut on 2 November.

The roundtable focused on the Dutch Banking Sector Agreement on international responsible business conduct regarding human rights (DBSA), alongside the theme of responsible banking more generally. The panellists explored the background to the DBSA, negotiated and agreed under the auspices of the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands (SER) and gave their perspective on the hurdles apparent prior to and since conclusion of the DBSA.

Prospects and challenges in respect of the implementation of DBSA were discussed. While private codes of conduct may be precise and verifiable in terms of the expected conduct, they are often set below the requirements of international law. The Agreement serves as a platform for dialogue to reach a common understanding over which conduct of banks is aligned to international obligations.

Although the implementation of DBSA is a ‘work in progress’ and there still are many difficulties that need exploring and practical questions to be answered, the participants ultimately agreed that the Agreement could have the potential to improve banks human rights performance. Focus should now be on the operationalisation of the Agreement, which incorporates a timeframe for evaluating its impact and effectiveness.

Speakers at the roundtable ‘Towards Responsible Banking: The Dutch Banking Sector Agreement on international responsible business conduct regarding human rights and beyond’ were: 

- Ruben Zandvliet: Advisor Environmental, Social, and Ethical Risk & Policies at ABN Amro
- Benjamin Thompson: Program Officer, Business and Human Rights at PAX
- Tessel van Westen: Senior Policy Officer International CSR Unit, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Maryse Hazelzet: Advisory Sustainability at NVB
- Ryan Brightwell: Researcher and Editor at BankTrack 

Read the full report on the roundtable here.

Doing Business Right
The T.M.C. Asser Instituut carries out research on developments in international and European law and its potential for serving the cultivation of trust and respect in the global, regional, national and local societies in which the law operates. This Winter Academy is part of the newly established research project of the Asser Institute on ‘Doing Business Right’, which is part of the broader research strand ‘Advancing Public Interests in International and European Law’.