Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Adelle Blackett and Anne Trebilcock
Chapter 6: Due diligence on labour issues – Opportunities and limits of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights of 2011 have recently embraced a human-rights, due-diligence framework for companies, placing rights at work in a new operational context, while raising a range of new questions. Is the risk management concept of due diligence a good choice for reinforcing corporate social responsibility in relation to labour issues? How can the due diligence construct be put into practice meaningfully by firms when it comes to rights at work as reflected particularly in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights? Which factors are important to make a due diligence exercise more than just going through the motions? How can a company’s engaging in due diligence be effectively monitored? These questions are each taken up in this chapter. Ultimately, the ease of using business due diligence leaves it a blunt instrument in furthering labour rights, not fully contending with its relationship to the enterprise’s own workers, to workers in enterprises linked to it in the supply chain, or to collective labour relations. The fundamental mismatch between the global direction of corporate structures and strategies and the nation-based paradigm of labour rights and even transnational labour rights imposes a basic constraint on the due diligence framework’s capacity to deal with such issues. Due diligence will nonetheless remain one tool among many to further respect for individual and collective labour rights.
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