Businesses must also practise socially responsible enterprise across borders

Minister Verhagen called on businesses to take social responsibility seriously, including human rights, when they operate in foreign countries. The Minister of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation was speaking at a conference organised by the Ministry and the Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers on 12 December in The Hague.

Always take international rules into account

“Although not all countries apply or adhere to western standards, businesses must always comply with international rules,” said Minister Verhagen. “That means for instance that human rights must be respected by everyone, everywhere.”

OECD Guidelines

“The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has this year drawn up clear guidelines on the responsibility of business. The guidelines place the responsibility for the whole chain firmly with businesses – including responsibility for the way their suppliers operate.

Condition of economic growth

The new OECD guidelines are an important instrument in the struggle against inequality. This is also a condition used by the Dutch Government in designing measures to stimulate economic growth in developing countries. For example, ambassadors receive extra funding to stimulate human rights and socially responsible enterprise. In a globalising world, businesses have at least as much influence as governments.”

Preventing unfair competition

As well as human rights, the guidelines also address labour rights, the environment, corruption, and consumer interests. The aim of the guidelines is to prevent businesses that ignore social responsibility from gaining an unfair competitive advantage.