As the reach and impact of businesses has grown worldwide, debate has increased about their roles and responsibilities concerning human rights. The Edinburgh Declaration sets out collective commitments of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) to engage proactively with corporate human rights responsibility and abuses, including with reference to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Through our Business and Human Rights Working Group, we facilitate work in this area.

The Working Group looks at the links between human rights and business. In particular, it examines how the private sector can help improve the human rights situation in Europe. It then brings its collective expertise and the perspective of European NHRIs to regional and international actors. They include the United Nations, the Council of the EU, the European Commission and the European Parliament. 

Engaging with regional policy

Since its foundation in 2018, the Working Group has engaged with the most critical business and human rights issues on the policy agenda. The Group responds to consultations and feeds into legislative processes on a regular basis.  

Recently, the Group has engaged on various European Union initiatives. This includes the European Commission’s Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence (CSDD Directive). The Directive requires large companies to address their negative human rights and environmental impacts in line with key international frameworks. The Working Group spearheaded ENNHRI’s engagement on the Directive, including submissions to EU institutions at different stages of the negotiations: the October 2023 statement in the Context of the EU Trilogue on the CSDD Directive; the April 2023 statement on the European Parliament’s position; and the March 2022 statement broadly welcoming the Commission’s initial proposal.

In 2022, the Working Group also looked at the EU proposal for a Forced Labour Ban. It pointed out that while such a product ban could be important in combatting forced labour in global value chains, key changes are still necessary. ENNHRI called for the proposal to adopt a human rightsbased approach. It followed this up with a further statement in January 2024. In addition, the Working Group published a statement on the EU Framework for Business and Human Rights. The submission outlines how to ensure that a human rights-based approach is reflected in the Framework. 

UN Human Rights Council Download: ENNHRI Statement on the ‘Zero Draft’ of the proposed business and human rights treaty

Business & Human Rights Working Group

Our Business and Human Rights Working Group acts as a hub of experts in this area and a platform to exchange knowledge, good practices and challenges that NHRIs face. It also coordinates engagement with regional actors at the European Union and the Council of Europe. 

In the GANHRI Working Group on Business and Human Rights, ENNHRI is represented by the German NHRI (chair) and the Portuguese NHRI. 

Chair 

Daniel Morris – Danish Institute for Human Rights 

Publications & Statements