Business and international trade make an important contribution towards human rights. Companies produce products, services and innovations, and provide employment and pay taxes that states use to fund for example education and health care.
To ensure that human rights are widely taken into account in business throughout global value chains, a campaign called #Ykkösketjuun* was launched in Finland in September 2018. The campaign is calling for a Finnish law on mandatory human rights due diligence. The law, based on the UN Guiding principles on business and human rights, would oblige companies to map their human rights impacts and to prevent and mitigate possible negative impacts.
This campaign is a unique cross-societal initiative: citizens, companies, trade unions and civil society organizations are all widely participating. Currently there are over 135 organizations involved and the number is growing.
Paulig is among the founding company members in this campaign
As a family-owned company respect for human rights and the environment are at the core of our values. This guides how the business is run today and developed for the future. The company is 143 years old this year and plans to be in business for the next 140 years or more. To do this, we must adapt and be future fit, listen and respond effectively to changing stakeholder expectations and environmental challenges.
Consumers in our markets, especially millennials and generation Z, are increasingly interested in that the products and services they buy are produced in a more sustainable way. They want to know about the origins of the products they buy and are interested in the environmental and social conditions in their production along the value chain.
"Many companies in a variety of business sectors already do a lot in order to understand the stakeholder expectations, the impact their business has on human rights and are committed to promoting realization of these rights in their value chains. However, it is important that all companies take action and that is why this campaign is needed," says Seija Säynevirta, Value Chain Development Manager at Paulig.
Call to action growing stronger - from local to global
There is a growing global trend of legislation development initiatives related to business and human rights all over the world from France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland to Australia. Therefore, in addition to adding to this trend by participating in a national campaign in Finland, we would welcome the development of a harmonized EU level legislation on this topic to create a level playing field for businesses.
In November 2018 Paulig was invited to represent the campaign coalition together with the Finnish retailing cooperative organization S-Group and the design company Globe Hope in an EU Parliament roundtable discussion where the coalition advocated for harmonized legislation on this topic on EU level. In January 2019 Paulig continued this international call to action by introducing the campaign in an EU Commission event on Sustainable Corporate Governance. This event brought together many actors to discuss the role of business in society, value creation business can drive and the long-term thinking and focus beyond shareholder returns needed to tackle the major sustainability challenges we face. It was also discussed how the legislative framework and corporate governance practices can support and should evolve in time to respond to these challenges.
"When it comes to the upcoming parliamentary elections in Finland, we want all parties and parliamentary candidates to be committed to promoting this matter on a national level. Moreover, as Finland will begin its third EU Presidency period in July 2019, it would be a wonderful opportunity for Finland to show leadership in promoting respect for human rights and an EU level joint harmonized legislative development could be one step forward in this area," Säynevirta underlines.
The campaign in Finland is now entering its’ final stage before the parliamentary elections. You can show your support for the campaign by signing the petition here.
* ‘Ykkösketjuun’ in Finnish means ‘the first line’ as in the lines in ice hockey. It also includes the Finnish word for a ‘chain’ as in value chain, ‘(arvo)ketju’.
Photo: Seija Säynevirta participated in a round table discussion calling for mandatory due diligence on human rights in business in the EU parliament in November 2018.