The eradication of forced child labor, the fight against discrimination at work and the protection of and respect for human rights all form part, together with other measures, such as combatting environmental impact, of the principles laid down in the UN commitment acquired in the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, which was assumed by Spain in 2015.

Given their commitment to and awareness of the need to play a more active role in the identification and mitigation of risks related to human rights, more and more Spanish companies have developed internal policies and codes of conduct in matters of corporate social responsibility.

This, however, is not enough. Although other countries, such as France, the Netherlands or Germany, do have regulations on this matter, Spain does yet have legislation with the rank of law that regulates corporate due diligence on a general and mandatory basis, or a system that stipulates specific measures aimed at ensuring the right of potential victims of human rights violations to seek full redress.

Due diligence, as defined in the European Commission’s Proposal for a Directive on corporate sustainability due diligence, of 23 February 2022, consists of taking proportionate actions to avoid adverse impacts on human rights, and adequately addressing those adverse impacts when they occur in a company’s own operations, in those of its subsidiaries or throughout the value chain.

In order to implement the commitments acquired in the 2030 Agenda and in anticipation of the future European Directive in this area, as already mentioned in our alert, the draft law on human rights, on sustainability and on due diligence in transnational business activities is currently being processed in Spain.

Pursuant to the proposed regulations, it will be mandatory for Spanish companies or transnational groups and for those operating on the Spanish market to develop and implement due diligence plans that address not only the business activity but also that carried on throughout the value chain.

Furthermore, the proposed regulations will stipulate information duties regarding the potential risks linked to the activity; they will regulate a system of infringements and penalties in matters of protection and respect for human rights, and will ensure that victims of a human rights violation have access to justice in order to seek full redress.

The human rights due diligence cannot be a mere statement of intent or an intangible utopia, but rather must be a reality in which, we trust, one more step can be taken towards the true achievement of the European Union’s sustainable development objectives in matters of human rights.

Verónica Lagares

Garrigues Labor and Employment Department