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Raising the Bar for Responsible Business

Foreword to Human Rights due to diligence in the supply chain, April 2013 by  Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide, Minister of Trade and Industry Trond Giske .

The majority of Norwegian companies are part of a global supply chain, either directly or indirectly, through their operations. This means that businesses, to a far greater extent than before, are engaged in supply chain operations where there are human rights challenges.

The working conditions in these supply chains may constitute a violation of human rights. Unfortunately, there are plenty of examples of companies whose business practices affect employees, local communities and the environment in a negative way. Such practices are not contributing to a sustainable economy or sustainable development – either for the society in question or for the company itself.

There are growing expectations that businesses should ensure that they do not contribute to human rights violations, and this has resulted in a number of internationally recognised guidelines for corporate social responsibility (CSR). In 2011 the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights was unanimously endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council. The foundation of these Guiding Principles is the International Bill of Human Rights and the work of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights emphasises the role of the state in protecting its citizens against human rights violations, and sets out clear expectations that businesses, regardless of size, sector, location, ownership or structure, must respect human rights. This includes carrying out human rights due diligence in order to avoid, or mitigate, adverse human rights impacts. Remedies are called for in cases where violations have occurred.

The Norwegian Government wishes to strengthen the role of Norwegian businesses as engines for sustainable development and poverty reduction, while at the same time supporting the efforts of the UN and the ILO to promote responsible business practices.

The Government’s policy in this area is set out in the white paper (Report No 13 (2010-2011) to the Storting) Corporate social responsibility in a global economy and its Decent Work Strategy. In the white paper Active ownership – Norwegian State ownership in a global economy, the Government expresses the same expectations to state owned enterprises.

This guide is based on the requirements, standards and recommendations of the UN and the ILO. It provides advice and recommendations on how all Norwegian companies, including small and medium-sized enterprises, can carry out human rights due diligence to avoid, mitigate and remedy negative human rights impacts.

We wish you success in your efforts to promote sustainable business practice.

Oslo, April 2013

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