Dutch banks and other parties are working together to combat human rights violations. Apart from their individual commitments they have formed Working Groups to address specific problems. The Annual Report will present the results of their work each year.
Working Group on Value Chains
The Working Group will analyse a number of value chains that are characterised by severe human rights risks and impacts. The aim of mapping the value chain is:
- Build collective information and knowledge by pooling data and expertise from multiple actors
- Facilitate brainstorming and analysis to find creative and constructive ways to exercise and increase leverage in a particular value chain.
Mapping the value chain can also improve the situation for those adversely impacted by human rights abuses. Particular attention will go to people who may be vulnerable or marginalised, for example indigenous groups, women, or migrant workers. The Working Group will first investigate the cocoa value chain. Palm oil and gold will follow. The results will be made public.
Under the Agreement, the Steering Committee will draw conclusions from the results of the value chain analyses and advise the banks on follow-up activities.
Working Group on Enabling Remediation
Businesses that have or contribute to negative impacts should provide access to remedy to those who are harmed. Such access is laid down in the OECD Guidelines and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). Businesses that are ‘linked’ to impacts on people should use their leverage with other responsible parties to motivate them to meet this expectation. The practical reality is that there are many business impacts on people for which no remedy has been provided.
What is the role of banks in helping to bridge this gap between expectation and practice? What factors can help determine the level of responsibility (‘causes’, ‘contributes to’ or ‘is linked to’) that a bank bears in a given case? How can the bank help provide access to remedy? Can it use its leverage with others? What tools can banks use to ensure that their clients are meeting their responsibility to provide remedy for the impacts they cause? How can banks help ensure that effective grievance processes exist for people who might be harmed by the activities of their corporate clients? These are some of the questions being addressed by the Dutch Banking Sector Agreement through the Working Group on Enabling Remediation. This Working Group consists of representatives of the parties to the Agreement, the adhering Dutch banks, and eight external experts appointed by the Working Group’s members.
Working Group on Increasing Leverage
Another Working Group will examine how the parties can increase leverage. They will do this mainly by helping companies to improve their business conduct regarding human rights. The Working Group will study how to define leverage. It will investigate the kinds of leverage available to the individual parties. It will also determine collective measures, with business peers, through bilateral engagement with third parties, and through multi-stakeholder collaboration. The Working Group will further investigate how to increase leverage from an eco-system perspective. This will provide insight into current practices and indicate how to improve responsible business conduct.
The Working Group will identify and set up leveraging models that can benefit from cooperation between parties. Joint added value can be improved if all the organisations exercise leverage – not only the banks, but other parties too.
Working group Transparency
Since the third semester of 2018, the working group Transparency is in force. This working group aims to actively help to implement the agreements on transparency (art. 6.9 and 6.10).
Working Group on human rights database
Exploring the possibility of a new Matrix Database
One of the joint commitments in the agreement was working on a matrix database in order to exchange information properly. During the first year, a working group has taken several steps in exploring the function of a new database, compared to existing tools. Over time, it became apparent that much information is already publicly available and is already integrated by banks in their financing decisions. What's missing is current and specific, on the ground information, which has not yet been published. The working group concluded that this type of information cannot be assembled in a matrix database. Other ways to assemble and share this information were explored. One of the options was to incorporate lessons learned and how to proceed form here, in the value chains approach. This option has been adopted as the most promising way forward.