Business Human Rights & CSR

Large companies in the European Union have been obliged since 1 January 2017 to report on their policy in connection with human rights. CSR and Business & Human Rights are accordingly subjects that are increasingly on the management agenda, not only to ensure that their own business practices in this area are in order but also to identify the risks in the production chains and make these manageable.

Some sectors already have more experience in this area than others. The Dutch clothing industry entered into a covenant in the spring of 2016 in order to avoid violating human rights and the corresponding scandals and reputational damage this entails. Banks, investors and pension funds too are currently also taking steps with regard to CSR and Human Rights.

Risk management and legal expertise with regard to human rights
Complicated ethical issues, the demand for corporate social responsibility and sustainable trademarks require good risk management. Knowledge about the legislation and the different rules and directives that exist in the areas of CSR and Human Rights can be extremely valuable in this process. As State Advocate, we have already been looking after public interests for many years and have accordingly gained a great deal of experience with regard to CSR and human rights, for example through cases such as Urgenda, Srebrenica and Hirsi Ali. In the meantime, we have been able to translate this knowledge and expertise into valuable legal advice for the private market.

In addition, we have a wide international network when it comes to Business Human Rights, partly in collaboration with the American Bar Association, the IBA and Rotterdam University. This makes us specialists on Human Rights. We understand for example that a Code of Conduct is an admirable aspiration but that the day-to-day reality, in combination with what are sometimes complex operational processes and different weighting factors such as time, budget and political sensitivities, requires clever strategies and a pragmatic approach. This could be achieved for instance via ingenious contract management or by implementing due diligence as part of mergers and acquisitions.

Achieving company objectives within the CSR framework
We can apply our legal knowledge to enable you to achieve your company goals while at the same time ensuring that suitable conditions are created for socially responsible entrepreneurship as well as revealing the risks related to violating human rights and keeping these risks manageable. Contracts and legal advice then become useful resources for benefiting your business and for maintaining a better balance between people, planet and profit in the future.

With steadily expanding supply chains, regulatory authorities with a watchful eye, and new legislation and regulations, the playing field for national and international organisations has become more exciting but also more complex. How can you take advantage of the opportunities without being tripped up by the risks? We would be happy to discuss this with you.

If you have any questions, please contact one of the members of the Business Human Rights Department.


  • "One source describes him as 'a tremendous and very technical lawyer', adding: 'If I need some advice on a highly technical legal issue, I would go to him. On top of that, he has the soul of human rights as well. He is part of the small group of worldwide lawyers who knows human rights very well'.", Chambers Global 2017 over Martijn Scheltema

Business Human Rights & CSR

  • Martijn ScheltemaAttorney-at-law, partner