This week, the European Commission published a report on due diligence requirements through the supply chain. In it, the current state of identification, prevention, mitigation, and accounting for adverse corporate impacts on human rights and the environment are assessed and four different future scenarios of (in)action and regulatory options are presented.
The research process included consultation with various stakeholders, including trade unions and civil society actors. The results of these consultations clearly show that currently, business and industry representatives are least likely to identify regulation or legal requirements as incentives to undertake due diligence – primarily because such requirements currently rarely exists and is limited to certain sectors or countries.
Stakeholders suggested that the current legal landscape is not efficient, coherent, and effective. When responding to the possibility of introducing due diligence as a legal standard of care, most stakeholders said that this may provide benefits to business because of harmonisation, legal certainty, a level playing field, and increasing leverage in their business relationships throughout the supply chain through a non-negotiable standard. The increased leverage would be particularly relevant for trade unions and other civil society organisations, as it would provide a stronger legal backing for demanding transparency throughout the supply chain and decisive action in ensuring respect of human rights.
The ETF believes that this study needs to act as a stepping stone for the European Commission to take action in this area. A serious, effective and ambitious proposal for a directive needs to be put to the table, as it is high time that workers get the protection they deserve, in all parts of the supply chain. The directive needs to empower workers in their fight against violations of human rights, including rights at work. It needs to ensure full involvement of trade unions and workers’ representatives throughout the due diligence process.
We expect action from the European Commission, and support EU Commissioner of Justice Didier Reynolds’ claims during his European Parliament hearing. He suggested that voluntary commitments on due diligence are not enough and more needs to be done.
The ETF calls for a European directive on mandatory human rights due diligence and responsible business conduct. Through it, effective remedies and access to justice has to be made available for victims, including trade unions. Companies need to finally be held accountable for the impacts of their operations, without prejudice to joint and several liability. A European directive would bring us closer to stopping violations of human rights that continue to take place in multinational operations, and their supply and subcontracting chains.
We will continue to use every channel available to press for stronger regulation in this area and work towards an EU directive on due diligence.
For more information on ETF’s fight for due diligence, check out our previous work:
Together with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the ETF used the existing legislation – the French Duty of Vigilance Law – to put pressure on operations of XPO Logistics Europe. The unions showed that XPO’s European arm comes within the remit of the Vigilance Law and must, therefore, execute, implement and publish an adequate vigilance plan.
The ETF is also a signatory to the call for effective, binding EU legislation that would establish mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence framework for business, companies and financial institutions operating, or offering a product or service, within the EU.