Due diligence is a common concept in corporate risk management systems. The idea of corporate human rights due diligence (HRDD) is set out in the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights. HRDD obligations refer to a company’s duty to carry out ongoing risk management to determine if its business practices could potentially adversely affect human rights. This includes risks to all those who could be negatively affected by a corporation's actions (e.g. employees, consumers, and persons who could be affected by environmental harm).
In 2013, ECCHR submitted a criminal complaint against a German manager of timber company Danzer Group. He is accused of aiding and abetting, through omission, the crimes of rape, grievous bodily harm, false imprisonment and arson in the DR Congo.
Businesses’ conduct, whether by action or omission, can cause, contribute to or be linked with a variety of human rights abuses in their own operations or their business relationships, including global value chains. ECCHR views it as essential that companies be legally obliged to adequately address human rights risks – and for them to be held accountable for possible damages.
Research by ECCHR showed: Syngenta’s pesticide Gramoxone – which is banned in many countries including throughout the EU – is used on plantations in Indonesia and the Philippines with almost no protective measures.
Research & Academia
In March 2017, ECCHR organized an expert workshop at Humboldt-Universität in Berlin. Together with professors, emergent legal researchers and practitioners discussed questions of corporate liability for human rights abuses abroad. A result of the workshop was the volume "Die Durchsetzung menschenrechtlicher Sorgfaltspflichten von Unternehmen" (Nomos).
In a comprehensive study, ECCHR has examined whether European companies through their transnational operations cause or contribute to forced labor or other labor abuses along their supply chains and whether they can be held to account. The result of this work is reflected in the report “Accountability for forced labor in a globalized economy.”
ECCHR filed a criminal complaint against Nestlé and some of its top managers in 2012. The complaint accuses the managers of being in breach of their obligations by failing to prevent crimes of Colombian paramilitary groups and failing to adequately protect trade unionists from these crimes.
Italian audit company RINA certified a Ali Enterprises, Pakistan, building shortly before a fire broke out in the factory. The certificate failed to guarantee high standards of security. ECCHR and an international coalition of human rights organizations filed an OECD complaint against RINA in September 2018.
Transnational corporations responsibilities also extend to the working conditions in their subsidiary and supplier companies abroad. This position is supported by survivors and relatives of victims of the fatal fire at the Ali Enterprises textile factory in Karachi. Together with ECCHR, they filed a legal action for compensation against KiK.