On 27th April 2021, CGF Sustainability Director, Didier Bergeret, joined a virtual roundtable hosted by Ksapa, The session, entitled “Human Rights Due Diligence: Legally-Binding Instruments to Date,” was part of a series of webinars about human rights hosted by Ksapa. Bergeret was joined by Lene Wendland, Chief of Business & Human Rights Branch in the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for the discussion, which was moderated by Ksapa’s CEO, Farid Baddache.

Wendland started the discussion by summarising the background to the discussion, mainly why there has been growing attention about mandatory HRDD legislation in the international sphere after many years of “soft” laws evolving into legally binding mechanisms. The first half of the session also covered some of the national and regional-level due diligence legislation and their implications, including the existing French law and the upcoming EU-wide legislation requiring mandatory HRDD coverage in companies’ supply chains.

Bergeret first introduced the CGF and the Human Rights Coalition – Working to End Forced Labour (HRC), which he oversees. He explained the HRC’s primary focus on transforming the internal approach to human rights due diligence within members’ corporate culture.

“How can we make sure we have a harmonised approach to targeting human rights due diligence and provide companies with key steps for them to effectively implement and guarantee that they can meet some legislative expectations but also technically integrate the human rights question and the eradication of forced labour within the DNA of their companies?” Bergeret asked. 

He said this question is key for the consumer goods industry and it helped inspire the launch of the HRC’s HRDD Framework focused on forced labour in HRC members’ Own Operations: “It effectively allows for a maturity approach, acknowledging that not everybody has a comprehensive system meeting the UNGPs and human rights expectations, but that you could be a beginner and yet have a wish to become a leader in that question over the years to come. “

Individual action at the company level is important, Bergeret said, but collaboration is very helpful given that different companies have different experiences, knowledge, and tools to share and help other companies develop their HRDD approach. This also applies to sharing information between the subject of social and environmental due diligence, and Bergeret shared how the HRC is working with the CGF’s Forest Positive Coalition to collectively address shared human rights and deforestation concerns that need greater attention, such as the vulnerability of human rights defenders. Similarly, he explained that there is a link between company-level due diligence and government engagement, as the HRC is working to engage due diligence particularly in the palm oil sector in Malaysia and support the development of an enabling environment for responsible recruitment. In all, he said these conversations and dialogues must be held appropriately to ensure all parties are able to be heard and engage.