A coalition of banks, the Dutch Banking Sector Association (NVB), trade unions, civil society organisations (CSOs), and the Dutch Government have concluded an agreement. They aim to work towards a situation in which human rights are respected.
The adhering banks and parties have committed to taking individual action. Below are some examples. They also worked together in Working Groups to address specific subjects.
Commitments of adhering banks
Human rights policy
Under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), businesses must have a policy on human rights. The banks that adhered to the Dutch Banking Sector Agreement have agreed to implement human rights policies in line with the UNGPs.
Under the OECD Guidelines, businesses must assess real and potential impacts, act on the findings, track the responses, and communicate how those impacts are being addressed. This process is referred to as due diligence. The Dutch banking sector agreed to focus on human rights.
The banks that adhered to the Agreement agreed to be more transparent about the way they shoulder their human rights responsibilities. Meaning sharing information about their investment portfolios and about their programmes for screening clients.
The banksalso agreed to require clients receiving project financing to set up or participate in a grievance mechanism. In order to give victims of human rights violations a forum for addressing their situation. This measure is specified in the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Commitments of parties to the agreementParties to the Agreement were the NVB, civil society organisations (CSOs), trade unions and Dutch government agencies. Most of them have a great deal of knowledge and experience in the relevant areas. In many cases, they also have access to networks in certain countries, for example through sister organisations active there. This information can be used to speed up, facilitate, and improve the due diligence process that banks are required to carry out under the Agreement.
The Dutch Banking Association (NVB) represented the banks on the Steering Committee and in various Working Groups.It also was a channel for closer collaboration. It has had a role in bringing the banks and the other parties to the agreement together to tackle any challenges that the banks may encounter. The NVB also promoted the Agreement among its members, the European banking sector, the EU, and the OECD. For example with a view to creating a level playing field.
CSOs and trade unions
The trade unions and the CSOs have information on real and potential impacts. Collecting and sharing this information makes it possible to prevent or address incidents. The trade unions and CSOs were not only members of the Steering Committee. They also assisted in mapping the value chain by sharing their expertise and arranging contact with local partners. They amongst others helped to define the challenges and direction of the Working Groups on Increasing Leverage and Enabling Remediation.
The Dutch Government was represented in the Steering Committee and the Working Groups. It also helped to investigate obstacles in financial and other regulations and other actions. Via the Dutch embassies, the Government could provide information on real and potential human rights impacts within the local context.
To boost the effect of the Agreement and create a level playing field, the Government will notify the EU and OECD of the results of the Agreement.