Dáil debates

Thursday, 8 February 2024

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Corporate Governance

10:20 am

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. I am aware of the recently published report and its findings. Indeed, I had hoped to provide an opening address at the launch of the report but, unfortunately, I was not able to be there on the day. At the launch of the 2020 benchmarking report, I said that the report was a valuable baseline for many Irish companies and that still holds true today. It is vital that we have such benchmarking exercises and reports available to help businesses understand their human rights responsibilities.

While we may not have seen the progress wanted since the publication of the last report, it is quite evident that we are seeing a shift with more businesses wanting to know what they need to do to operate responsibly. These businesses are utilising the United Nations guiding principles and the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises on responsible business conduct. I am encouraged by the proactive engagement of many businesses but I do recognise that a lot more needs to be done to ensure that a wider base of businesses are increasing their scores.

Voluntary initiatives play a role but the calls for mandatory measures have also been listened to with the EU introducing a number of initiatives, many of which relate to respecting human rights. As we continue to transition into an environment that has a smart mix of voluntary and mandatory measures, we will need to help businesses understand their obligations under the initiatives and ensure we foster an environment that protects human rights.

In that regard, communication is key. That is why my Department created a responsible business forum last year. Key business representative bodies participate in the forum, which discusses the various initiatives with a view to providing coherent, pertinent and timely information to those impacted by the changes from the introduction of mandatory measures and, importantly, to also consider the opportunities.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and my Department are also in the process of developing a second national action plan on business and human rights. The new plan will build on the achievements of the first national plan taking account of the significant developments in the legislative and institutional landscape. As the Deputy will be aware, there is still plenty of work to do in this space.


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