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Boskalis threatens to leave the Netherlands, ‘new law makes doing business uncertain’

Posted on January 9, 2023

Top man Peter Berdowski of dredging and maritime service provider Boskalis threatens to leave the Netherlands. In the radio program Sven op 1 , he called that chance real. Stone of offense is a new law on corporate social responsibility.

Earlier this week he said in an interview with the FD that doing business in the Netherlands will be made impossible for him if the new law comes into effect.

Human rights

It concerns the International Corporate Social Responsibility Act. This anticipates European legislation that imposes obligations on companies with regard to corporate responsibility.

Berdowski is particularly concerned about a possible duty of care. Companies must prevent their activities from having a negative impact on issues such as human rights, labor rights or the environment. A judge could test that.

Berdowski cites the construction of a port in Saudi Arabia as an example. “It may then be that we are then summoned before a Dutch court to ask whether we are allowed to build a port based on the duty of care. This may partly concern human rights, but also, for example, the consequences for the climate.”

If all Boskalis projects can be tested in a Dutch court, it will be very uncertain, Berdowski said.

“Having About the Content”

That is an unjustified fear, says Maria van der Heijden, director of MVO Nederland, a network organization for companies that do business sustainably. She is involved in the design of the law.

“Protection of human rights is already in the law,” she says. “Urgenda’s lawsuits against the State have been conducted on this basis, and Milieudefensie has filed against Shell. What we’re doing now is making clear legislation about international business. That also prevents people from having to go to court all the time.”

According to Berdowski, the legislation is unclear because the duty of care is not clearly defined. “If you can tell me what duty of care means in a broad and deep project portfolio, I’d be delighted.”

According to CSR director Van der Heijden, there are “draft texts that we can discuss with each other”. But she also says that “if you say in advance: I don’t really want legislation, then we can’t talk about the content either”.

New goals

She calls the fact that Boskalis may leave if the law is passed a faint threat. “I think it goes without saying that a company should be concerned with its own future-proofing. Boskalis has a lot of expertise, but they have to link it to the new goals we have worldwide for climate, equality and protection of biodiversity.”

The law will be discussed in the House of Representatives on 18 January.


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