Week of 14 June 2021
What is the new Norwegian Human Rights and Decent Work Due Diligence Law?
Our key takeaway: The UNGPs’ focus on human rights due diligence makes it into Norwegian law – coupled with a right to information for stakeholders.
On 10 June 2021, the Norwegian Parliament adopted the Act on business transparency and work with fundamental human rights and decent work (Proposition 150 L (2020-2021), also known as the Transparency Law):
- Large and mid-size companies covered. The law covers all larger companies domiciled in Norway, as well as foreign companies selling products and services in Norway. These are companies meeting at least two out of three (as reported by ForUM: “1. At least 50 man-years; 2. Turnover of at least 70 million NOK; 3. Balance of at least 35 million NOK.” This is approx. 8,800 companies. The law is expected to enter into force on 1 January 2022.
- Corporate duty to conduct due diligence with respect to human rights and decent work, coupled with a right to information. The law requires companies to perform due diligence assessments, and to document how they work to prevent or limit these risks to human rights, including workers’ rights. The baseline is the UN Guiding Principles and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. (The law does not cover environmental due diligence). The due diligence assessments cover the entire supply chain and business partners, and the law requires companies to provide or cooperate to ensure remedy. Companies must report on their assessments, including cases of severe risk or harmful incidents that they uncover in their due diligence assessments. The law grants to any stakeholder the right to request information from a company on how it manage its human rights due diligence – including in relation to a particular item or service offered. (Mark Taylor remarks on the “innovative addition” of this new right to information and duty to disclose that “is reminiscent of freedom of information acts, which enable citizens to demand information from their governments. It is fitting that in this age of global capital, we empower people to ask concrete questions about the ethics of corporations that govern so much of our lives.”)
- Enforcement: The responsibility for upholding and enforcement of the law will be placed under the Norwegian consumer authority. Companies violating the law face risk of injunction, or fines should they fail to comply. Fines can be imposed on both companies and responsible individuals within a company. (Civil society organisations remark on the fact that civil liability is lacking and the discussion on this topic has been limited.)
For further info, see Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, Norway: Parliament passes due diligence law incl. right to information about corporate impacts (14 June 2021)
See Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment, ForUMs reactions to the Norwegian due diligence law (14 June 2021)
See EECJ, Norwegian parliament adopts the Transparency Act (14 June 2021)
Mark Taylor, Mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence in Norway – A Right to Know (12 April 2021)