Business and Human Rights in India
NVG, NAP, UNGP: A discussion on human rights and business can at first be confusing. There are a lot of acronyms for corporate leaders to learn.
After the United Nations for the first time in 2011 defined the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), many governments started drawing up national action plans (NAPs) to offer guidance to companies. The Indian government was among the early starters formulating its own National Voluntary Guidelines on Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibilities of Business (NVGs) in 2011. Before long, the V was dropped and likely by 2020 the government will have drawn up an Indian NAP.
The flurry of action plans and guidelines at the moment largely aims at informing and guiding companies. A few countries have however set out to make monitoring of human rights due diligence mandatory. Britain with its Modern Slavery Act and the Netherlands with the Child Labour Due Diligence Act are among the early adopters. These laws have a reach well beyond their countries of origin. British and Dutch companies are required to monitor human rights due diligence in their supply chains globally. More legislation is under way. Combine this with India’s very own efforts and a considerable number of foreign and Indian companies in India is already or will soon be required to explain what they do to live up to their duty to respect human rights.
To inform the debate and foster a network of policy makers, academicians, corporate leaders and civil society, the Centre for Responsible Business (CRB) every year organises the conference India and Sustainability Standards. With the support of the Regional Office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom New Delhi, the CRB was able to engage Markus Löning, former Human Rights Commissioner of the Federal Republic of Germany, as a speaker for the conference, followed-up by discussions in Pune and Mumbai, organized by the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with the CRB. The debate as well as legislative efforts by governments around the world are just gaining momentum – or as Löning repeatedly put it: “The topic is here to stay.”