IRBC Agreements - Basic principles

1. Basic principles

The parties to the IRBC agreements commit to achieving tangible results. The agreements are based on the existing aims and standards laid down in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UN GPs), the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and the ILO’s core labour standards (part of the OECD Guidelines). This international framework is founded on three principles:

  1. ‘Duty to protect’: The Dutch government has a duty to protect human rights, not only by complying with the guiding principles and guidelines itself, but also by preventing human rights violations by other actors in society, including businesses.

  2. ‘Responsibility to respect’: To avoid such risks, the Dutch government, employers’ associations and trade unions, consumers, and NGOs expect companies to transact business in a way that respects human rights and the environment.

  3. ‘Access to remedy’: Promoting access to remedy and helping businesses and stakeholders find appropriate access to remedy.

IRBC Agreements - Joining Forces

2. Joining forces

IRBC agreements give businesses the opportunity to increase their leverage by joining forces with others in their sector and with government and other parties. Working together, they can increase their leverage by taking a structured, problem-solving approach to complex problems that individual businesses cannot solve on their own. The agreements involve multiple parties that commit to achieving tangible results based on the international guidelines and principles identified above. 

IRBC Agreements - Process

3. Process and progress

The process leading to an agreement consists of approximately twelve steps. Since each sector faces unique problems and has its own set of dynamics, more or fewer steps may be necessary to reach an agreement. The steps are divided into three stages: 

  • Exploration phase
  • Dialogue phase (the actual negotiations)
  • Implementation phase (safeguarding the agreements)

IRBC Agreements - Approach

4. Approach

Business can tackle observed issues in three ways:

  1. By conducting due diligence (this the process whereby businesses identify, prevent and limit the actual and potential negative impact of their actions and explain how they deal with identified risks)

  2. By taking undertaking initiatives in cooperation with unions and NGOs. A collective approach focusing on making structural changes by means of IRBC agreements makes it possible to move from ‘naming and shaming’ to ‘knowing and showing’

  3. By carrying out projects ‘on the ground’ that give practical meaning to the agreements at the lowest possible level.


The agreements focus on the following OECD RBC themes, and on subsidiary issues within those themes:

  • Disclosure
  • Human rights
  • Employment and industrial relations
  • Environment
  • Consumer interests
  • Science and technology

IRBC Agreements - Results

5. Results

IRBC agreements bring parties together to produce results. The main objective is to make tangible progress towards lowering or eliminating specific risks within a realistic three- to five-year period among those groups that may feel their negative effects, such as workers in the value chain and local communities in regions where raw materials are being sourced.

The IRBC agreements can also serve as an important tool for achieving the SDGs. Businesses that wish to work with the SDGs must perform due diligence in accordance with the OECD Guidelines and UN GPs.

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