Annual Report 2018 | September 2019
Much of the added value of the DBA should come through it being a platform on which multiple stakeholders — banks, NGOs, government and trade unions — who haven’t traditionally worked together on these issues can collaborate, share knowhow and create solutions that will have a greater impact than any of the signatories could hope to achieve on their own.
Signing the DBA demonstrated commitment and good intentions, but how are things working out in practice? Here some of those directly involved share their perspective on progress to date:
Challenge is to make recommendations specific enough
“I think the most important result is that all the DBA partners are talking constructively. We’re working together towards a common goal. Everyone has their own role in the discussion, and that’s respected by everyone. But it’s clear we’re making progress. There are now concrete proposals that should lead to actual improvements in banks’ policies. In the third year, the challenge will be to make the proposals and recommendations as specific as possible.”
A platform that allows stakeholders to engage with one another
“The collaboration’s intentions to achieve progress were initially delayed somewhat. One explanation for this might be that initial expectations regarding the outcomes and stakeholders’ roles weren’t defined clearly enough. Unfortunately, internal circumstances also meant that FNV couldn’t always contribute the input it would have liked, for example to the working groups.
“But there have been real achievements. The analyses have provided greater insight into the value chains, the stakeholders involved and the most salient human rights issues. There is now better mutual understanding of how different stakeholders within the covenant think and act on CSR and human rights. I’m particularly proud of how the DBA has created a platform that allows stakeholders to engage with one another and give banks information to improve their due diligence processes. So they can mitigate risks when making credit decisions, and so better serving human rights, including labour rights.
“By the end of the three years, we will hopefully have begun to turn the insights and recommendations of the DBA into practice. Starting with concrete pilot projects that openly support the millions of workers and their trade unions; and acknowledge the need for freedom of association, a living wage and improved labour conditions.”
Collaboration has had its challenges, but also added value
“Our shared aims and ambitions as laid out in the DBA were one of the main reasons for NGOs like Save the Children to sign the DBA. Since then much effort has been made within the working groups on areas such as value chain analysis, remediation and leverage. Collaboration within these working groups has had its challenges, but ultimately produced reports and recommendations that could be seen as a good result. Another positive result is that several banks now publish their annual human rights reports, which is a first step towards giving more insight into the human rights due diligence policies of those banks.
“The collaboration between the parties and adhering banks, for example in the value chain analysis on cocoa and gold, has been of added value and could be further strengthened. More openness, for example on the challenges the banks face in implementing the Agreement, might lead to a better understanding and improvements. To date, the banks have been reluctant to make use of the NGOs’ expertise to solve complex cases or to cooperate within the financial sector to increase their leverage.
“It is a step-by-step process to reach the DBA’s goals, and of course Save the Children would like to speed it up. For example, we’d like to see more ambition when it comes to how banks can use their leverage in cooperation with local stakeholders or play a positive role in multi-stakeholder platforms.”
Save the Children
Results of which all involved can be proud
“We have been happy to see how all parties and adhering banks have committed to implementing the agreement, and are willing to find a middle ground and cooperate. It hasn’t always been an easy process: collaboration means compromise and working hard to find the areas on which the parties and adhering banks can increase their leverage to address negative impact together. Building trust is a continuous process, and we all underestimated the time and effort it would take to arrive at joint reports, recommendations and publications.
“The results, however, are an accomplishment of which those involved in the collaboration can be proud. The value chain analyses are innovative, and offer a useful approach to exchanging knowledge and expertise, and coming to joint insights that can be shared with other actors and stakeholders within the different value chains. The fact that the methodology can be replicated by other banks and in other sectors is a huge plus-point. The Enabling Remediation discussion paper will be a valuable basis for further discussions with the international banking sector on the role of banks in remediation.
“For Year 3, the work of the Transparency Working Group should deliver practical performance indicators and we look forward to seeing the end results of the banks’ individual commitments on human rights due diligence.”
Dutch Ministry of Finance
Courage to look beyond own interests and perspectives
“The NVB is proud of the increased cooperation between parties, especially when you consider that, not so long ago, we were mainly communicating via the media. At the same time, cooperation requires time and patience. We have the same goal, but different realities sometimes mean we have to walk a different path to reach it. I’m proud that the parties, within their different remits of that reality, have really had the courage to work together and look beyond their own interests and perspectives. The fact that banks, NGOs, trade unions and the government have jointly prioritised serious human rights risks is in itself extremely valuable. It’s also important to see how new bilateral relationships have sprung up between banks, trade unions, NGOs and the government for advising on human rights risks.”