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MEPs back law to hold firms to account for environment and human rights abuses

The EU took a step closer to holding companies to account for environmental damage and human rights abuses committed by their subsidiaries and suppliers overseas, with a vote in the European parliament on Wednesday.

MEPs voted by a large majority, 504 to 79 (with 112 abstentions), to push forward with proposed legislation that would require companies to conduct due diligence throughout their supply chain, to root out abuses and environmental harm such as deforestation and pollution.

The European commission is expected to table a law in June based on the MEPs’ vote. The legislation should oblige companies to identify, address and remedy any aspects of their supply chain that could infringe human rights, the environment or good governance. The rules would apply to all businesses operating within the EU, including those based outside EU member states, such as UK companies...

The vote was a victory for campaigners who have long raised concerns that companies selling to European consumers have been associated with, and directly or indirectly responsible for, behaviour and environmental damage overseas that would be illegal within the EU...

Jill McArdle, corporate accountability campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said ... that the European commission should ensure, in its drafting, that human rights and environmental violations, such as illegal logging and forced evictions, are treated as crimes so that companies can be tried under the law.

In the UK, the environment bill is also expected to include new measures that would hold companies accountable for illegal logging overseas. However, the bill has been delayed several times.

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