The application of the global principles of responsible business conduct in Latin America and the Caribbean -especially those related to transparency, human rights and anti-corruption obligations- is crucial to move towards sustainable development in the region, agreed the participants in the seminar Implementing Global Principles on Responsible Business Conduct: transparency, human rights and anti-corruption obligations in practice, held this Thursday, March 16, at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile.
During the event, organized by the Norwegian Embassy in Chile, the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso and ECLAC, the Norwegian Transparency Law was announced, which entered into force on July 1, 2022 and obliges Norwegian companies , whether they operate in their country or abroad, to carry out due diligence processes.
The opening words of the meeting were given by Mario Marcel, Minister of Finance of Chile; Jan Christian Vestre, Norwegian Minister of Trade and Industry (via video); Jostein Leiro, Ambassador of Norway in Chile; and José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, Executive Secretary of ECLAC.
“The commercial and financial opening and the growing physical and technological interconnection of the markets over the last decades have opened up new dimensions of development for companies, where it is no longer enough just to add value in the production processes of goods and services. services, but it is essential to adopt principles of responsible business conduct”, said Mario Marcel, Minister of Finance of Chile.
“The speed with which Chile’s major trading partners are moving to establish mandatory regulations in these matters, including supply chains, shows that the future growth of any nation critically depends on the agile adoption of these principles,” he stressed.
José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, Executive Secretary of ECLAC, thanked, first of all, the presence of authorities and other representatives of Chile and Norway (Member State of the Commission since 2015), and highlighted the commitment of both countries to sustainability and the fight against climate change.
“For the urgent transformations to take place, it is necessary to have not only consistent public policies, but also an active private sector, which moves the investment muscle,” emphasized the highest representative of ECLAC, adding that “there is no doubt that that the region needs to reactivate investment and growth” due to the complex global and regional scenario, with several linked crises and an unexpected war in Europe.
“But it is not just any investment or any growth,” stressed José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs. “In Latin America and the Caribbean we need to innovate, sophisticate and diversify our productive apparatus with a vision of sustainability. The region needs decent working conditions with compliance with human rights, as the Norwegian Transparency Act reminds us,” he said.
It is to be expected, he said, that the due diligence obligations imposed on European companies will have a positive impact on the standards applied in Latin America and the Caribbean. “Betting on transparency and human rights is not only correct and morally imperative, but also strategic,” summarized the Executive Secretary of ECLAC.
“Events like today give us the opportunity to learn from each other and create an even stronger bond, paving the way for more trade and investment between Norway and Chile, and between Europe and South America,” said the Minister of Trade and Industry Norway, Jan Christian Vestre, adding: “When companies are serious about transparency, they earn our trust. When companies earn our trust, they gain a competitive advantage. And when companies have a competitive advantage, they grow and prosper.”
Based on the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human RightsNorway last year passed its own transparency law for companies, in close collaboration with civil society and the business community, Minister Jan Christian Vestre reported.
“I understand that in Chile, as in other countries in the region, the development of various strategies and regulations on the subject of business, economy and human rights is being evaluated. For Norway, of course, it is a work of continuous development”, highlighted, for his part, the Norwegian Ambassador to Chile, Jostein Leiro.
The new transparency law in his country, explained the diplomat, “obliges Norwegian companies, whether they operate in Norway or abroad, to carry out due diligence processes in the areas of human rights and working conditions throughout their chain of supply” and allows “consumers to obtain information about this process and the results”, he stressed.
The seminar included a keynote talk by economist Jeannette von Wolfersdorff, from the Autonomous Fiscal Council of Chile, on the importance of transparency and the role played by the industry in promoting human rights and the fight against corruption, and three panels on international guidelines and national legislation on transparency; responsible business conduct in practice; and business conduct and multiple stakeholders.
The closing words of the event were given by Dante Pesce, Executive Director of the Link Center of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, who made a summary of the day, highlighting the Norwegian vision that links the construction of trust with an increase in competitiveness, as well as the long process of implementing the principles of responsible business conduct in the country that led to the approval of the recent transparency law.