On September 24, at a meeting of the Open Government Partnership at the United Nations, President Obama announced that the U.S. Government would develop a national action plan to promote responsible business conduct. The United States had been under considerable pressure from civil society organizations and others to develop such a plan.
Specifically, and as stated in a fact sheet released by the White House:
The United States will develop a National Action Plan to promote and incentivize responsible business conduct, including with respect to transparency and anticorruption, consistent with the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises.
This announcement by the United States is consistent with the efforts of countries around the globe to develop national action plans to promote responsible conduct by businesses and to implement the U.N. Guiding Principles.
In the European Union, the European Commission has called on all E.U. Member States to develop national action plans for implementing the Guiding Principles. The United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Italy, Finland, Spain, and Denmark have already developed such plans, and the European Union has reported that a large number of countries intend to develop such plans in due course. These action plans reflect the duty of governments to protect human rights in part through the establishment of laws and regulations governing business activities.
These plans set expectations for governments and provide frameworks that corporate stakeholders can use to push for more legislation and regulation to address the human rights impacts of corporate activity. In the United Kingdom’s plan, the Government notes that
The UK has specific laws protecting human rights and governing business activities. …Like all States we need to continually re-assess whether the current mix is right, what gaps there might be and what improvements we can make.
Prior to its most recent announcement, the United States had released a formal statement of its approach to business and human rights. Now that the United States has announced its intention to develop a more formal plan to promote responsible business conduct, observers will be watching closely to assess what impacts such a plan will have on U.S. Government’s effort to enact and enforce legislation and regulations intended to ensure that American companies operate with respect for human rights.