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Industry and human rights

Germany has adopted a National Action Plan to hold companies accountable. Some firms have already committed themselves in exemplary fashion to protecting human rights.

Martin Orth, 18.06.2019
Good working conditions: a modern textiles factory in Addis Ababa
Good working conditions: a modern textiles factory in Addis Ababa © picture alliance/Kay Nietfeld/dpa

The National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (NAP) aims to ensure by 2020 that at least half of all companies in Germany that have more than 500 employees respect human rights throughout their supply and value chains. This group comprises around 7,100 businesses.

To what extent has the NAP already been implemented?

In an initial phase a group of 30 companies – a cross section of German industry – was interviewed. On the basis of the results, a questionnaire is being drawn up for the first major survey of companies in 2019. 

What are other countries doing?

To date, 23 EU and EFTA states have adopted a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, while similar plans are also being developed in other countries. Non-European states such as the USA, Chile and Kenya have likewise published an Action Plan or are in the process of doing so.

Which best practice examples can be found in Germany?

A number of companies are already setting a good example.

By introducing a Code of Conduct in 2000, and by signing up to the United Nations Global Compact in 2003, the consumer goods manufacturer Henkel has committed itself to respecting internationally recognised human rights along its entire value chain.   

Textiles manufacturer KiK has actively participated in the discussion about how the NAP should be designed, and published its guideline on human rights in 2017. In it, the company commits to upholding and promoting human rights in its business processes and to helping to eliminate violations of human rights.

The car manufacturer Daimler introduced its Human Rights Respect System in 2018 with a view to effectively tackling human rights violations at an early stage. This affects tens of thousands of suppliers and even more sub-suppliers.


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