How can companies generate more leverage in order to exercise their human rights due diligence duties better and which obstacles exist in this context? This was the central question which was discussed by a panel during amfori’s recent webinar Corporate Leverage and Human Rights Due Diligence on 3 December 2020.
After a welcome address of amfori President Christian Ewert there followed a keynote from Holger Dreiseitl from the German Federal Foreign Office. Dreiseitl underlined that open trade must be safeguarded and that this needs increasing resilience along supply chains. Initiatives such as amfori BSCI are crucial tools in this context. In his view, corporate leverage is needed to drive effective change and mitigation of risks. He concluded by stating that it needs to be remembered that governments can’t shift their role in this discussion to companies, companies in turn need to build up networks to create more leverage. Me Dreiseitl stressed that transparency needs to be increased and that governments can help businesses to create more leverage.
In the panel discussion, Lena Peleikis (Otto Group), Juliane Michel (ISA-TRAESKO), Franziska Humbert (Oxfam Germany) and Lorenz Berzau (amfori) discussed elements which can help to increase leverage and shared their experiences.
Franziska Humbert pointed out that companies need to review their own procedures and avoid simply shifting the pressure to their suppliers. She also advised businesses to engage more with stakeholders in the process to assess human rights risks in the supply chain.
Lena Peleikis explained that joining forces with other companies in amfori BSCI is essential because even larger companies are often small customers when ordering small volumes.
Juliane Michel reminded the group that small companies can also take action and support suppliers to improve sustainability. In addition, corporate responsibility is part of every buying decision in her company. This is not something that only larger companies can exercise. All panelists expressed the need for a better level playing field – this is where European legislation can play an important role.
The session was concluded by Tyler Gillard from the OECD, stressing that companies can and need to step up to enhance sustainability in their global supply chains. Companies need to prioritise but also to go beyond their comfort zone and engage with stakeholders. It is particularly important to go beyond auditing, with increasing transparency as one key step. Talking about risks, as Tyler Gillard underlines, is a shield against liability, which is an increasingly important topic in the debate about Human Rights Due Diligence legislation. Exercising Human Rights Due Diligence is a process - we need to realise and accept that perfection is impossible.