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This week the Dutch Banking Sector Agreement on International Responsible Business Conduct Regarding Human Rights published its first Annual Report, covering implementation of the agreement over the year 2017.
The report’s publication was accompanied by the launch of the first two significant reports to arise from the Agreement, and a third draft report for consultation. These are:
- The Phase I Progress Report of the “Increasing Leverage” working group, which explores good practices for banks and other parties to the Agreement for increasing their leverage, jointly or individually, for the benefit of people facing adverse human rights impacts,
- An analysis of the Cocoa Value Chain Analysis, from the Value Chain Working Group which conducts mapping exercises of high-risk sectors that are material to the banks, and
- A draft Pal Oil Value Chain Analysis which is open for consultation until 30th September.
The Dutch Banking Sector Agreement, signed in October 2016, is a multi-stakeholder agreement between Dutch banks, trade unions, civil society organisations and the Dutch government, through which the parties agree to work collaboratively towards full implementation by Dutch banks of their human rights responsibilities. The Agreement is one of a number of ‘Responsible Business Conduct Agreements’ for different business sectors, which are seen as an alternative approach to regulation. The Dutch government has determined that legislative intervention may be forthcoming if these agreements do not deliver sufficient results.
The Annual Report includes details of the Independent Monitoring Committee’s recommendations after the Agreement’s first full year of implementation, together with the Steering Committee’s responses. It its recommendations, the Independent Monitoring Committee:
- 'encourages the Parties and the adhering banks to mark the Agreement as a sufficiently high priority in order to yield the foreseen results in 2018'
- calls for 'a more specific plan as to how to further narrow' the 'considerable difference in expertise and experience between the adhering banks in the area of business and human rights'
- 'observed that at least three banks are still at an initial stage with respect to their deliverables for 2018 Q2 and it seems unlikely they will be able to deliver in time' and
- 'suggest[s] that the Government could play a more active role in making a success of the Agreement ... unless the Government is anticipating that legislation is inevitable'.
BankTrack welcomed the Agreement on its release as an ambitious document with far-reaching commitments, while noting that it falls short in some important areas and committing to keeping a close eye on its implementation. We will provide further commentary on the Annual Report and publications in the coming weeks.