Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Questions (8)

Réada Cronin


8. Deputy Réada Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the safeguards in place to uphold Ireland’s responsibilities under the UN Sustainable Development Goals and to prevent Ireland being party to or becoming entangled in a supply chain dispute on labour given the status of the State as a hub for global supply chains (details supplied). [7875/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Ireland remains committed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda and a ‘whole of Government’ approach to implementation continues, as set out in the ‘Sustainable Development Goals National Implementation Plan 2018-2020’.

The Programme for Government was developed with close consideration of Ireland’s responsibilities under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and their centrepiece 17 goals. The programme provides specific reference to delivering on objectives in line with the SDGs in many areas.

The Department of Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) will lead the development of Ireland’s second SDG National Implementation Plan in 2021. Both the SDG interdepartmental governance structure and the SDG Stakeholder Forum with key input from civil society and relevant sectors will support this work in ensuring Ireland upholds its SDG responsibilities.

Monitoring and reporting is a key part of ensuring Ireland continues its progress towards targets set out under the Sustainable Development Goals. Monitoring progress through the Central Statistics Office (CSO) SDG GeoHive and regular updating of the Policy Map Matrix of the Goals will help ensure that Ireland upholds its responsibilities under the Sustainable Development Goals. This monitoring will also allow for more coherent implementation of the Goals.

Specifically, in relation to labour exploitation, the Department of Foreign Affairs is the lead Department on target 8.7 under the UN Sustainable Development Goals which aims to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, including child labour - as set out under the Sustainable Development Goals National Implementation Plan 2018-2020.

In 2017, the National Plan on Business and Human Rights was launched to give effect to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The National Plan, overseen by the Department of Foreign Affairs, aims to promote responsible business practices at home and overseas, including in developing countries, by all Irish business enterprises. This first national plan contains a range of actions, which are being implemented across government. Through the term of this plan Ireland has continued to engage with international partners through its annual participation in the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights.

In the coming months, the Government will publish a toolkit for Irish companies to help guide them in discharging their responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This will be a valuable resource for Irish business – providing information, guidance and a number of case studies provided by businesses that have embraced the UN Guiding Principles and can provide valuable learnings and advice.

In the first half of 2021 there will be a preliminary review of the progress made in implementing the first National Plan. Later in the year, the Government will begin to develop the second iteration of the Plan.

The second National Plan will be informed by the initiative underway in the European Commission to bring forward legislative proposals in the area of sustainable corporate governance. The Commission will propose changes to the EU regulatory framework on company law and corporate governance, to ensure that companies focus on long-term sustainable value creation, rather than short-term benefits. The aim is to help companies to better manage sustainability-related matters in their own operations and value chains as regards social and human rights, climate change, the environment, and so on. We expect to see the detail of this proposal in Q2 this year.

Safeguards in the areas of sustainable development and labour are further strengthened by Ireland’s membership and engagement with the International Labour Organisation. In 2017, Ireland took up a Titulaire Seat on the Governing Body of the ILO for the first time. This will allow Ireland to further its input into international business and human rights through the ILO.

From a Trade Policy perspective, Ireland supports the broader positive EU approach to sustainable development through efforts to ensure that there are strong and ambitious chapters on Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) in Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), as part of the EU’s value-based trade policy, that are consistent with international legal commitments and standards. Furthermore,

the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) also seeks to play a role in promoting the Sustainability agenda.

In addition, Ireland seeks to promote responsible business conduct through my Department’s hosting of the National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, which aim to encourage the positive contributions that multinational enterprises can make to economic, environmental and social progress and to minimise the difficulties to which their various operations may give rise.