Germany: companies showing little concern for human rights

Through . Published on 08 November 2019 à 14h39 - Update on 08 November 2019 à 14h39

The School of Management and Law at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) and the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, a British NGO, have probed the practices and actions of 20 large German companies in terms of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and respect of human rights. The results (here) are rather gloomy. Although all the companies claim to adhere to high human and ecological standards, not one completely complies with the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Right, decreed by the UN in 2011. The best-ranking company was Siemens (60%, scoring 14.5 points out of 24), followed by Daimler and Deutsche Telekom (both scoring 13.5 points). At the bottom of the pile are: Deutsche Bank  (6 points), ZF Friedrichshafen (7 points) and Deutsche Post DHL (7 points). Herbert Winistörfer, a researcher at the ZHAW and co-author of the report, highlights: “90% of the companies do not truly share the approach to human rights as upheld by the UN.” The study also shows that most of the companies assessed are unable to prove that the monitoring, warning and legal support mechanisms officially put in place are functioning effectively and take into account the defence of workers’ human rights on a local level, in the case of subcontracting companies in the supply chain. The study goes beyond straightforward observation and shows that Germany could well legislate on the question in 2020. Indeed, this monitoring work is being carried out in parallel on a group of 1,800 companies, which the German government committed to as part of its coalition contract. If at the end of the year, the federal government finds that on average these companies do not respect the UN’s guiding principles on the subject, then it plans to impose compliance with rules under the law. Given the poor performance of the largest German companies, it is a safe bet that the Bundestag will soon be looking into the matter.

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