In May 2020, the European Commission announced the upcoming development of a landmark legislation on mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence for corporations. CIDSE and a coalition of over 100 European organizations that have been repeatedly exposing the reasons why such legislation is needed, have welcomed the initiative of Commissioner Reynders responding to the joint call for mandatory legislation. Based on evidences that link businesses and their value chains to a range of human rights abuses and the breach of environmental standards, members of the coalition put forward a proposal of key elements that civil society considers necessary to include in the EU mandatory due diligence legislation to promote businesses’ respect for human rights and the environment. These points are included in a paper published today (scroll down to download it).
The proposal builds upon a number of international guidelines, notably the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD guidelines for responsible business conduct, and places the development of this legislation as a pivotal contribution to the success of the European Green Deal as Commissioner Reynders announced as well. It recalls that due diligence is a continuous, preventative, risk-based process which focus is on the risks and harms not to the enterprise itself but to human rights and the environment. Therefore, the legislation should clearly establish the obligation for companies “to effectively identify and assess; cease, prevent and mitigate; track and monitor; and communicate and account for specific risks and actual and potential adverse impacts in their operations and along their global value chains and business relationships”
Building on the findings of the study on due diligence requirements through the supply chain published by the European Commission (DG Justice) in February this year, the paper identifies some key elements such as business enterprises obligations, provisions for cooperation for access to remedy, issues of liability, enforcement, choice of law and scope of application.
CIDSE is convinced that strong mandatory due diligence rules at the EU level can only complement the existing efforts of member states and that the EU should simultaneously support a similar process at international level to ensure there is a level playing field globally. The elements proposed are crucial to hold businesses accountable for the adverse impacts of their activities throughout their value chains and to help responsible business prevent such impacts.
As hundreds of Bishops and Cardinals around the world have called (July 2020), these measures are needed now more than ever. “This profit-driven system and the throwaway culture it brings needs to be challenged, now more than ever, in a time when the pandemic has upended our certainties and provided the opportunity to re-assess our world system and spark a just transition. (See also the opinion article Cardinals speak out: EU needs corporate due diligence)
Business enterprises and investors need to take responsibility as well for the care of our common home and have a key role to play in addressing the ecological crisis and stopping human rights abuses. The Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated the perilous structures of global supply chains and the insufficiency of existing legislation to address the gaps that endanger people and the planet. These principle elements will be key for the EU to deliver on a sustainable future for our common home and its inhabitants.
The document was released by the following organisations: Action Aid, Amnesty International, Anti-Slavery International, Clean Clothes Campaign, CIDSE, European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights, European Coalition for Corporate Justice, FIDH, Friends of the Earth Europe, Global Witness and Oxfam.