Civil society organisations launch campaign for mandatory human rights due diligence in Germany

On 10 September 2019, a civil society coalition of 64 human rights, development and environmental organisations, trade unions and churches launched a campaign calling for the introduction of a law requiring German companies to conduct human rights and environmental due diligence along their supply chains.

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12 February 2020

German civil society campaign publishes legal opinion on possible mandatory human rights & environmental due diligence law

Author: Initiative Lieferkettengesetz (unofficial summary translation by BHRRC)

Note: This is an unofficial summary translation by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (attached). The full legal opinion is available here (in German).

The legal opinion of the “Initiative Lieferkettengesetz” shows how [the] key features which are essential to a supply chain law can be transposed into the German legal system:

- A supply chain law would [...] enshrine the principle of due diligence, commensurate with the severity of the (potential) human rights abuse and the company’s size. Companies will only be liable if they, on account of a lack of due care, cause or contribute to damages they could have otherwise foreseen and avoided.

- ...Extending the scope of tort as it relates to human rights is therefore necessary.

- Human and environmental damages are often closely linked. Environmental damages often also result in the abuse of ... human rights...

The “Initiative Lieferkettengesetz” places great importance on aligning a supply chain law with existing principles under German law... [An] effective supply chain law should also establish civil liability of companies before German courts. Without this, a supply chain law would be of little use to people affected by human rights abuse... This [opinion] also makes suggestions as to how provisions under public procurement law and foreign trade promotion can encourage observance of due diligence requirements.

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10 September 2019

A chance to curtail abuse in Germany’s supply chains

Author: Juliane Kippenberg, Human Rights Watch

...An alliance of 64 NGOs and trade unions in Germany—including Human Rights Watch—has launched a Supply Chains Law Campaign urging the German government to propose a bill by 2020 that would ensure German companies put in place human rights safeguards in their supply chains...

Now is a crucial moment to push for a robust law. Germany’s government of conservatives and social democrats has already agreed to consider legislation on human rights safeguards in supply chains in its coalition agreement. The next national elections are scheduled for September 2021, which means that any new bill would have to be tabled soon. The Campaign hopes to convince wavering MPs and mobilize the public to support a petition addressed to Chancellor Angela Merkel...

Conservative and social democrat coalition partners have struggled to agree on a national action plan to protect human rights in company supply chains, and a mechanism to monitor its implementation. A German law would be vital to regulating company behaviour in Germany and protecting rights in the supply chains of one of the world’s largest export economies.

But a German law could prove a positive influence across the European Union. Germany will have the EU Presidency in the second half of 2020 and would be in a great position to help pave the way for EU-wide mandatory due diligence, ensuring strong, rights-respecting business practices in many more countries.

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10 September 2019

Seven years after the factory fire at KiK supplier in Pakistan: Germany urgently needs a due diligence law

Author: European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR)

On 11 September 2012, 258 people died in a fire in the Ali Enterprises factory in Karachi, Pakistan. The German retail chain KiK, the factory’s main customer, failed to ensure that its supplier adhered to fire safety laws. On the 7th anniversary of the factory fire, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and 63 other civil society organizations are campaigning for a new law to require German companies to conduct human rights and environmental due diligence of their supply chains...

The factory fire survivor and three bereaved sued KiK in Germany supported by ECCHR and medico international, but the lawsuit was dismissed due to statutory limitations under Pakistani law. The due diligence initiative wants to ensure that those affected by German companies and their suppliers’ actions abroad can seek justice, including damages, in Germany...

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10 September 2019

Tackling unscrupulous profit: broad civil society alliance calls for supply chain law

Author: Initiative Lieferkettengesetz

The Federal Government should impose legal obligations on German companies to uphold human rights and environmental standards globally, said a broad alliance of over 50 civil society organizations on the seventh anniversary of the devastating fire that engulfed the Ali Enterprises textile factory in Pakistan. 

The “Initiative Lieferkettengesetz” [the Supply Chain Law Initiative] sees trade unions join forces with environmental, human rights and development organizations as well as fair trade representatives and church-based initiatives.

In its petition, the alliance urges German Chancellor Angela Merkel to introduce a supply chain law by 2020. An event was also staged in front of the Reichstag to remember those who have lost their lives in the many accidents that have taken place at factories supplying German companies...

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