Human rights and environmental due diligence should not be optional

Published date: 15 February 2021

Backing for EU consultation on sustainable corporate governance

Proposals by the European Commission that would introduce new due diligence requirements for companies on their human rights and environmental impacts have been strongly supported by GRI.

The consultation on sustainable corporate governance (closed on 8 February) focused on how to ensure business decisions support long-term value creation while taking account of their environmental, social and economic impacts. The change would see sustainability embedded in an EU-wide legal framework, legislating for mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence.

The GRI Standards – already voluntarily used by thousands of companies in Europe – are the only sustainability standards that align with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct. GRI is therefore both willing and capable of helping the Commission achieve its aspirations.

Peter Paul van de Wijs, GRI Chief External Affairs Officer, said:

“We welcome the European Commission’s efforts to ensure that businesses demonstrate greater accountability for their human rights and environmental obligations and strongly support moves towards mandatory due diligence.

This aim can only be fulfilled by linking requirements for corporate transparency to globally applicable and robust reporting standards. The GRI Standards, developed and maintained through a rigorous multi-stakeholder process, help any organization to report in a way that meets global norms for responsible business conduct.

The clock is already ticking on the EU Green Deal and COVID-19 recovery plan and the private sector has a key role in achieving a sustainable and just transition. Alongside our backing for the Commission’s crucial work to strengthen non-financial reporting requirements, GRI will continue to collaborate and offer our support.”

View in full the GRI response to the European Commission consultation.

The European Parliament has firmly supported the changes, with MEPs pledging to ‘hold companies accountable for harm caused to people and planet’.  

An update to the GRI universal Standards, to publish later this year, will strengthen reporting on due diligence, as set out under the UN Guiding Principles and OECD instruments.

Last month, GRI responded to proposals on the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group taking on a new sustainability reporting standard setting function, as part of the Commission’s wider work to update the non-financial reporting directive.