Sif Rishoej: "It is important that we use the leverage of the EU." Photo: BioMar.

BioMar calls for EU law to improve human rights in global value chains

Danish aquaculture feed producer BioMar is among 12 large Nordic international companies that today called for European Union due diligence regulation that would improve human rights throughout global value chains by having an aligned agenda effective across country borders.

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In a press release, BioMar said it has a complex international value chain and has over the last few years been increasing focus on human rights and the UN Guiding Principles (UNGPs) on Business and Human Rights to strengthen internal practices as well as developmental work with suppliers.

As a part of this work, BioMar participates in the Nordic Business Network for Human Rights (NBNHR), whose members have issued a joint statement demonstrating their support for human rights due diligence legislation at the EU.

EU leverage

“It is important that we use the leverage of the EU to achieve legislative alignment regarding human rights due diligence across industries,” said Sif Rishoej, vice president, people, purpose and communication in BioMar Group.

“The EU has a unique opportunity to develop a regulatory framework which could serve as an effective, efficient and coherent tool for the aquaculture industry, and which could assist as an international benchmark for advancing the implementation of the UNGPs.”

In its statement, the NBNHR said that over the past decade, the UNGPs have been integrated into policy and practice by states and companies around the world but more required to be done.

Mandatory compliance

“While voluntary initiatives have been effective in supporting companies’ efforts, a ‘smart mix’ of measures as outlined by the UNGPs is needed in order to drive an increase in business respect for human rights over time,” the Network stated. “Well-designed mandatory human rights due diligence (MHRDD) legislation at the EU-level has the potential to create better outcomes for people by scaling up the implementation of the UNGPs, turning commitments into action, and promoting a human rights culture within companies across the value chain.”

NBNHR wants legislation applicable to all business enterprises located in the EU or selling products or services in the EU, regardless of their size, sector, operational context, ownership or structure.

“In our experience, there is a need to ensure human rights due diligence covers the entire value chain, not only the supply chain, as impacts can occur both upstream and downstream, in addition to direct operations. An inclusive scope will promote a level playing field and ensure that all actors in the value chain are responsible and accountable,” it said.

Much-needed contribution

The Danish Institute for Human Rights, which moderates the NBNHR, welcomed the companies’ joint call.

“This statement from major Nordic companies is a much-needed contribution to the current debate on an EU-wide measure on human rights due diligence,” said Elin Wrzonchki, department director on business and human rights.

“Such a measure bears the potential to improve human rights in global value chains, including for workers and communities in poor countries. We recognise the leadership it takes to welcome such a legislative development and hope this input will inform the discussions and support the EU Commission and Parliament in developing an effective and impactful measure in support of human rights.”

The companies that signed the statement are BioMar, Novo Nordisk, The Lego Group, Arla, Danfoss, Inter IKEA Group, Lundbeck, Neste, Norsk Hydro, Statkraft, Vestas Wind Systems and Yara.