Current and Upcoming Human Rights Due Diligence Expectations for Japanese Companies and their Suppliers

A new partnership between Japan and UNDP

June 17, 2022

UNDP promotes responsible business by strengthening human rights standards across 17 countries, with support from Japan

UNDP Photo

Statement As Delivered. Japanese version here.  

Mr. Gen Nakatani, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Japan for international human rights issues,

State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, Mr. Kiyoshi Odawara,

Distinguished sponsors and speakers, participants both in-person and online,

It gives me the utmost pleasure to have this opportunity today to present the new partnership between the Government of Japan and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support Japanese companies in building responsible supply chains. In addition to the 120 participants at the venue, more than 800 individuals registered online from more than 50 countries. The fact that there has been such a strong interest in hearing about the development of business and human rights in Japan is a testament to the globalization of the value chain of Japanese companies and a reminder that we, as organizers, must further accelerate the implementation of this project.

The global debate on responsible business, based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, has evolved rapidly over the past decade. The progress made over the past few years has been particularly remarkable. Investor interest, consumer pressure, and calls for regulation have led to increased expectations for business. The private sector can play a leading role in developing a more equitable and sustainable society. Companies worldwide are raising their ambitions, translating words into actions, and establishing good practices based on human rights standards.

In recent years, major industrialized countries such as Germany, France, and Australia have adopted due diligence codes that require companies to identify, prevent, and mitigate negative impacts on people. The United States has banned the importation of goods produced by forced labor. Soon, the European Union will also mandate human rights due diligence.

In this context, we are aware that the Japanese government will develop cross-industry guidelines for human rights due diligence to be finalized this summer. Following the adoption of the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights in 2020, this major step by the Japanese government will firmly position Japan as a leader in Asia in promoting responsible supply chains.

I also understand that Keidanren has revised its Charter of Corporate Behavior in a move that will fundamentally strengthen its commitment to business and human rights. This includes the creation of a new chapter on human rights and the formulation of a human rights handbook for management.

I wholeheartedly commend these measures as they demonstrate the commitment of the Japanese government and industry to conducting human rights due diligence.

UNDP will be a partner to these public and private sector efforts in Japan, with support in 17 countries across five regions.

Since 2016, UNDP has been working in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond, mainly with the support of the EU and Sweden, to provide technical assistance for the development and implementation of national action plans on business and human rights. Our efforts also serve to advise companies and promote access to remedy for victims when human rights violations occur within the supply chain. Thanks to Japan's contribution, these activities have now expanded to 26 countries in five regions.

Launched in March of 2022, UNDP country level-projects are underway in all 17 target countries. Today, we have begun to connect the dots between past progress and present needs at the headquarters level and throughout the supply chain.

Based on our experience with human rights risk analysis, guidance, and support, we have already completed the English version of a training guide for companies, and with the support of the Ministry of Justice, a Japanese version will be published soon.

In addition, human rights due diligence is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and more complex situations require more complex responses. This is especially true for companies and their supply chains operating in conflict-affected areas such as Ukraine. And so, I am happy to announce that UNDP is publishing a manual of heightened due diligence for companies operating in conflict-affected countries. This guidance will be available in both English and Japanese. 

This partnership between UNDP and the Government of Japan, will be implemented in collaboration with partners working in the field of responsible business, including the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In addition to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has generously contributed funding to this project, we also have support from the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Justice, the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and other organizations.

UNDP is committed to achieving an equitable society, sustainable development, and human security and will work together with the Global Compact Network Japan, Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), individual companies, civil society, and other interested stakeholders to redouble our efforts to that regard.

I would like to conclude by expressing my high hopes for this new partnership. Together, UNDP and Japan can achieve great things to protect human rights through responsible supply chains.