Mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence: Risks and Opportunities for Workers and Unions

Shelley Marshall, Ingrid Landau, Hila Shamir, Tamar Barkay, Judy Fudge, Auret van Heerden

Research output: Book/ReportReport


Mandatory human rights due diligence (mHRDD) legislation is now a strategic objective for many activists and organisations concerned with the protection and promotion of workers’ rights in the global economy. It is widely presumed that embedding the concept in national, regional and international law will open up new avenues through which workers and trade unions can challenge corporate practices and secure meaningful remedies for rights violations. The concept is seen as particularly valuable in the context of transnational supply chains, where the fragmented nature of production has long presented formidable legal and practical barriers to efforts to secure greater corporate accountability for labour rights violations and poor working conditions. Campaigns for mHRDD laws are bearing fruit in the Economic North. Human rights due diligence (HRDD) laws are now found in a number of OECD countries and are being debated in others. The EU has also released a proposed Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive. While all these initiatives and proposed initiatives draw on the concept of HRDD found in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (OECD Guidelines), they differ significantly in their scope, application and the obligations they impose on businesses. This report considers these developments from the perspective of the risks and opportunities for workers and unions. It has two key aims. The first is to express concern over the current trajectory of HRDD legislation and its capacity to effect meaningful change for workers and trade unions. We recognise there are strategic reasons for supporting HRDD: it has momentum and currently may be the most viable ‘win’ from a legislative perspective. We also acknowledge that the concept is leading to important normative shifts and has the potential to be a positive development for workers’ rights. However, there is little evidence to suggest that
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAustralia
PublisherRMIT Univ Business & Human Rights Centre; TraffLab ERC; LEAH research group, Monash Business School
Number of pages37
StatePublished - 2023


  • Labour law


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