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Report

9 Oct 2020

Author:
ECCHR, Brot für die Welt, Misereor

The human rights fitness of audits and certifiers: Position paper discusses role of certification in mHRDD

"The human rights fitness of audits and certifiers: A position paper", September 2020

Corporate responsibility is currently on the political agenda of the German government as well as the European Union. The question at stake is: what should mandatory human rights due diligence (mHRDD) legislation look like? ...

This position paper uses four case studies to discuss the requirements the auditing and certification industries have to meet to review mHRDD. Because when a new legal standard is created, it has to ensure its own implementation. The paper thus poses the question: how can auditing companies’ human rights fitness be guaranteed?

Auditors and certification companies could potentially act as “verifiers” of human rights due diligence reviews...

“Verification” through audits or certificates can go terribly wrong, as a number of tragic events have shown over recent years...

Auditors and certifiers must identify the risks of their own activity... If auditors and certifiers cannot be relied upon, this puts into question their possible role as verifiers of human rights due diligence.

The case studies reveal several vulnerabilities of current human rights-relevant auditing and certification systems and practices:

(1) A lack of integration of human rights due diligence as a corporate policy and management principle...

(2) Deficient quality assurance of auditing and certification activities...

(3) Deficient human-rights sensitive methodology...

(4) Absent or insufficient integrity management...

(5) Finally, deregulation and a lack of governance and access to legal recourse...

The discussion about auditing and certification in human rights-relevant fields should go hand in hand with the drafting of mHRDD legislation. If a law cannot ensure that it can be implemented and monitored in practice, it will do little to increase legal certainty and will carry a risk of undermining its substance...

States must see to it that auditors and certifiers are “fit” to audit human rights.