Gaps & Opportunities for Germany in Business & Human Rights

October 2015

Briefing

As Berlin prepares to welcome companies from all over Europe for the 15th anniversary summit of the UN Global Compact  – a network of businesses which requires a commitment to respect human rights from CEOs for membership - Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has released analysis of four years’ of approaches to German companies on allegations of human rights abuses.  

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre sought responses to 88 allegations of human rights abuse by German companies between 2011 and 2015. Key findings from these allegations include:

  • 81 out of 88 of allegations of abuse occurred outside of Western Europe.
  • More than a third of allegations were linked to supply chains or business relationships.
  • More than a third of allegations were against companies in the clothing and technology sectors, primarily related to labour rights and the right to privacy respectively.

As the fourth largest economy in the world, Germany is uniquely positioned to provide sorely-needed leadership to ensure companies respect human rights worldwide.  However, this analysis reveals gaps in the way it addresses the conduct of its own companies, particularly through supply chains and business relationships.

The German government has taken some positive action on business and human rights issues: in 2014, it announced the development of a National Action Plan on business and human rights, and in 2015, under German leadership the G7 issued its first declaration committing to address human rights abuses in global supply chains.  And German companies have been progressive in their response to the refugee crisis.

The briefing calls on German government and companies to play a constructive role in EU business and human rights initiatives to ensure higher standards extend to all European companies.  It also recommends for the German Government to improve access to judicial & non-judicial remedy for victims of German companies’ involvement in human rights abuses and to strengthen German companies’ due diligence at home and abroad.

"The grounded analysis from the Resource Centre provides clear and important demands for the German National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights. The message is clear – German companies are far from meeting human rights due diligence standards along their value-added chain. The German Government needs to introduce binding rules to ensure that companies comply with due diligence standards regarding human rights and it needs to hold companies accountable when they don't."

Dr. Verena Haan, Amnesty International Germany