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27 Feb 2024

Heidi Hautala, Olena Uvarova & Ihor Konopka via EUobserver

Commentary: For Ukraine's sake, pass the EU due diligence directive

EU companies will be actively involved in rebuilding Ukraine, in fact, they have already started as the war continues. This month, EU co-legislators agreed to dedicate and additional €50bn via the new EU Ukraine Facility to support the war-torn country's "recovery, reconstruction and modernization". [...]

It is essential that EU companies set to gain recovery contracts operate responsibly. The risks to vulnerable people through the disregard of human rights are high, as are risks to the environment. This is now a matter for EU member states when they vote on the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD). The well-being of Ukrainians and the quality and sustainability of the Ukrainian national recovery are at stake. [...]

The CSDDD means protective human rights and environmental standards. It mandates due diligence to avoid forced labour and ensure the payment of living wage alongside core occupational health and safety as well as environmental protection measures. These can be enforced against EU companies in their home countries via EU state authorities and courts, thereby ensuring responsible business conduct for those in Ukraine.

The CSDDD is not simply about exporting EU business standards abroad, but rather a world-leading initiative to put internationally agreed standards of corporate behaviour from the UN and OECD into law; to oblige companies to undertake corporate human rights and environmental due diligence, wherever they operate. [...]

Recently, the Confederation of Ukrainian Employers has also expressed support for the EU's CSDDD. [...]

Whilst the EU Commission's 2022 proposal did not include provisions incorporating "conflict due diligence", they were added, after the Russian invasion, by the European Parliament and Council into what is now the final directive text.

The CSDDD will help guarantee a more orderly, just and safer reconstruction of Ukraine by the EU private sector. It will also ensure EU companies operating in Ukraine do everything they reasonably can to help the lives of Ukrainians return to normal, whilst rebuilding the country with dignity.