Government promotion of Responsible Business Conduct (RBC)
The Dutch government wants to ensure that Dutch companies engage in socially responsible business practices abroad. Responsible business conduct (RBC) means they should take account of human rights, working conditions and the environment in their operations.
Promoting responsible business conduct
Dutch authorities have taken a number of measures to promote RBC.
Imposing a due diligence obligation on companies
- The government proposes drafting a law, preferably at European level, that would require companies to do business responsibly. A European approach would have greater impact, and the European Commission is currently working on a proposal for a law on a due diligence obligation. The government sent a letter to parliament in November 2021 setting out what a legislative proposal should look like at European level. The government expresses this ambition towards the European Commission in a non-paper. The government addresses, among other things, the question of which companies should be covered by legislation, what requirements companies should uphold to, and how supervision and enforcement should be organized.
- The EU already has a law in place aimed specifically at companies that import certain types of metals and minerals. The Conflict Minerals Regulation requires them to ensure their products are from responsible sources. The Commission gives more information about the EU Conflict Minerals Regulation on its website.
- Since 2017, the EU Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD) has required large public-interest companies with more than 500 employees, including listed companies, to include a non-financial statement in the directors’ report. The statement must provide information on labour conditions for employees and how the company deals with environmental and social issues, threats to human rights, and corruption and bribery.
Setting conditions to encourage RBC
- By setting conditions on due diligence in public procurement contracts, the government can encourage responsible business conduct.
- Companies only qualify for government assistance for doing business abroad, like investment support and participation in trade missions, if they can show that they comply with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. This is set out in the RBC framework, which is implemented by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO).
Financial incentives for RBC
- The government provides grants through programmes like the Fund for Responsible Business or the Fund Against Child Labour to companies that engage in RBC and want to address abuses. Companies can apply to the RVO for these grants. SMEs with sustainable, international ambitions can use RBC vouchers to help pay for advice on making their international supply chains more sustainable.
Sector-wide cooperation makes RBC easier
- The government is also negotiating agreements on responsible business conduct (RBC) with Dutch business sectors and civil society organisations. These agreements set out the risks to avoid in terms of human rights, working conditions and the environment. Agreements on responsible business conduct are already in force in several sectors.
Providing information about RBC and facilitating implementation
- The government wants to make it easier for companies to do business responsibly, regardless of whether it is their own choice or they are required to by law. That’s why it is setting up a new RBC support office that will function as a one-stop shop.
- Companies that want to do business internationally can use the CSR Risk Check to see which risks they could encounter in terms of labour rights, human rights and environmental conditions. They can also use the OECD’s Due Diligence Guidance for help in establishing their RBC policy.
- The government expects 90% of big companies in the Netherlands to comply with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises by 2023 and to publish information that supports this, for instance in their annual reports or on their websites. The government supports companies with information and incentives. The website ‘Getting started with the OECD Guidelines’ presents success stories and offers practical information on carrying out due diligence and complying with the OECD Guidelines.