The Norwegian Transparency Act 2021 – An important step towards human rights responsibilities for corporations - By Nora Kenan

Editor’s note: Nora Kenan has been an intern at the Asser Institute for the past five months and is about to complete her LL.B. in International & European Law at The Hague University of Applied Sciences. Upon graduating, she will proceed with a Master’s in human rights at the University of Utrecht.


The Norwegian Transparency Act [1](‘Åpenhetsloven’), also known as the ‘Act on Business Transparency and Work with Fundamental Human Rights and Decent Work’ was proposed in April 2021. Now, two months later, the Act has officially been adopted by the Norwegian government and represents yet another mandatory due diligence initiative which has been trending across various jurisdiction in the recent years. The Act will require all large and medium-size corporations in Norway to disclose the measures taken to ensure the respect for human rights throughout their entire supply chain.

Various Norwegian organizations have been campaigning for years in favor of such a law. The official preparations began in 2017, when the Parliament (‘Regjeringen’) requested the Government (‘Stortinget’) to explore the possibility of introducing a law that would oblige companies to inform consumers about the steps that they take to follow up on various human rights responsibilities. The Government appointed a law firm as well as a group of experts, the Ethics Information Committee, to conduct thorough research on the matter, and to investigate whether there were any other legal obligations standing in the way of a proposal of this kind, such as for example EEA-obligations or bilateral/multilateral agreements. As a result of this research, it was concluded that there was indeed room for imposing human rights obligations on corporations. Shortly after, the Ethics Information Committee published a report in which they proposed the introduction of a due diligence legislation – more specifically, the Transparency Act. The Act consists of fifteen paragraphs (§)[2], and each paragraph has a commentary which further describes how it should be interpreted and applied.[3]

The objective of the law is essentially to promote corporate respect of human rights and decent working conditions in the production of goods and provision of services, as well as to ensure public access to information on the steps taken by corporations to safeguard these goals (§1). By making this information public, individuals and stakeholders in general are given the chance to directly question the activities of a company. More...