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Business and Human Rights Update
We are witnessing a regulatory avalanche relating to businesses’ respect for human rights. This update will keep you advised of initiatives of relevance for your business. We are also relentlessly chasing new tools for business to effectively address potential harm to people and environment. In the end, what protects people is also what best protects our businesses.
Doing business in Norway? Mandatory human rights due diligence and transparency obligations may be coming your way before the summer. Below, we summarise the proposal published last Friday by the Norwegian Government. Stay tuned.
  • The Norwegian Government has proposed three substantive duties on companies
    • Duty to perform regular human rights due diligence (No. “aktsomhetsvurderinger”)
      The proposal includes the main elements of human rights due diligence under the UNGPs and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Companies (indeed the proposal explicitly references the OECD Guidelines): identify actual and potential human rights impacts, take action to cease, prevent or mitigate negative impacts (prioritizing risks the company has identified as most severe), provide or cooperate in remedy and compensation, track the results of actions, and communicate with affected stakeholders how impacts are addressed. The Government does not propose a full value chain approach to due diligence; but suggests it should cover a company’s own activities, supply chains and other business partners needed to deliver the company’s products and services (e.g. consultants, facility management services).

    • Duty to publicly account for risks and due diligence efforts
      Companies should report on their due diligence efforts, including internal governance and processes, identified potential and actual impacts, actions to address risks, as well as the results or expected results of such actions. The report should be signed by the board of directors and the managing director. Annual publications are due by 30 June. In between annual disclosures, companies should publish substantial changes to previously published risk assessments.

    • Duty to provide information about human rights issues from anyone that asks
      Anyone can request that a company provides information about how it addresses human rights issues; in general and in relation to specific products or services. As a main rule, companies have a three-week response time. Companies may under a limited set of circumstances withhold information. However, these do generally not apply where a negative impact actually has occurred.

  • The Norwegian Consumer Protection Authority is mandated to oversee and enforce – and to provide guidance and advice 
    The Government proposes that the Authority is given enforcement tools against non-compliant companies and sometimes individual company representatives. These tools include various forms of fines that according to the Government should act preventively.
Companies in scope
  • All “large”, Norwegian-based companies and companies offering goods and services and are taxable in Norway.

  • Generally, it means companies exceeding two of the
    following thresholds on closing day:
    • Sales revenues > NOK 70 million
    • Balance Sheet > NOK 35 million 
    • Average number of employees > 50 full-time.
Human Rights in scope
If you have questions or want to discuss any of these issues, you can always reach out to your existing contacts at the firm. You are also welcome to contact the members of our Corporate Sustainability and Risk Management team, some of whom are listed at the bottom of this page. 

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Erica Wiking Häger, partner, erica.wiking.hager@msa.se
Malin Helgesen, Specialist Counsel, malin.helgesen@msa.se
Peter Linderoth, partner, peter.linderoth@msa.se

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