France: Natl. Assembly adopts law imposing due diligence on multinationals to prevent serious human rights abuses in supply chains

Get RSS feed of these results

All components of this story

Article
1 March 2017

French "duty of care" law for companies: similarities & differences with UK Modern Slavery Act

Author: Jane Moyo, Ethical Trading Initiative

...NUMBERS: The UK law has greater reach as it focuses on annual turnover in the UK (£36 million or more) as the criterion for reporting, whereas the French law only applies to French companies and is based on the number of staff employed (5,000 staff in France or 10,000 staff from their combined French and foreign offices). It is therefore estimated that around 150 companies will be affected compared to more than 13,000 in the UK. SCOPE: Despite affecting far fewer companies, France's diligence plan covers a much broader scope in terms of issues, as both human rights and environmental concerns are included. The focus is not only on ensuring decent working conditions and fair wages in supply chains but on sustainability too. CONTENT: The UK's Modern Slavery Act does not set out any specific reporting requirements. There may be six suggested reporting areas...but the only requirements are that a company posts a link to a public statement on the home page of their website and gets sign-off from senior executives or the Board of Directors. Under the French law, it is interesting to note that companies are required to report on their alert mechanisms to identify risks, which should be “developed in consultation with the legitimate trade unions operating within the company”.... PENALTIES: In France, if companies fail to demonstrate that they have established and implemented a plan, they will risk a penalty of up to 10 million euros. Currently, the only risk in the UK is to reputation...

Read the full post here

Article
23 February 2017

FAQs: French corporate duty of vigilance law

Author: European Coalition on Corporate Justice (Belgium)

The question of what should be the legal obligations on business to ensure respect for human rights throughout their activities and business relationships is at the centre of the business and human rights debate.  In the past years, this question has gained important political momentum, and initiatives to improve corporate accountability have increased at national, European and international level.  The new French corporate duty of vigilance law shows that respect for human rights and the environment can be legally mandated into business activities.

Download the full document here

Article
23 February 2017

France leads EU on duty of care requirements for multinationals

Author: Samuel White, EurActiv

After four years of debate, France has finally adopted a law on duty of care by multinational companies.  This paves the way for similar laws in Belgium and Spain, although the project is stalled at European level...Under negotiation since almost the beginning of François Hollande’s mandate, the bill aims to strengthen the responsibility of parent companies for their subcontractors, particularly in the developing world.  The bill was adopted by a large majority: of the 98 MPs present for the vote, 94 voted in favour.  Most MPs outside the governing Socialist Party abstained, but despite official instructions to reject the bill, some Republican MPs voted for it...In more tangible terms, the new law obliges French companies to adhere to a vigilance plan to prevent violations of human rights and environmental damage throughout their production chains.  “That should allow us to avoid another Rana Plaza,” said Dominique Potier, a Socialist MP and rapporteur on the bill...Companies can be sanctioned with fines of up to €30 million for not respecting the rules.  But the original bill was softened during the long debate, with criminal prosecutions for company bosses among the measures removed from the final version...

Read the full post here

Article
22 February 2017

France adopts corporate duty of care law

Author: Friends of the Earth International

The French Parliament yesterday adopted a long-awaited law establishing a duty of care obligation for parent and subcontracting companies...The vote comes after several years of mobilization of French civil society...Companies covered by the new law (it only applies to the largest French companies) have to assess and address adverse impacts on people and the planet under annual public vigilance plans.  This includes impacts linked to their own activities, those of companies under their control, and those of suppliers and subcontractors, with whom they have an established commercial relationship.  When companies default on these obligations, the law empowers victims and other concerned parties to bring the issue before a judge.  Judges can issue fines of up to 10 million euros if vigilance plans are absent, and 30 million euros if this absence results in otherwise preventable damages.  Although this law is a major achievement, French civil society organizations believe the law’s text could have been more ambitious.  The law’s scope is limited, only covering around 100 large companies...It is now essential that other countries follow France’s lead, in other words, binding legislation at national, European and international levels, to advance on much needed regulation for transnational corporations and their financiers...

Read the full post here

Article
22 February 2017

France adopts corporate duty of vigilance law: a first historic step towards better human rights and environmental protection

Author: Sherpa

The French Parliament adopted a much-awaited law establishing a duty of vigilance obligation for parent and subcontracting companies.  The law marks a historic step towards improving corporate respect for human rights and the environment.  We call on European countries, the EU institutions, and the international community to develop similar legislation...When companies default on these obligations, the law empowers victims and other concerned parties to bring the issue before a judge.  This bill will allow to prevent human and environmental rights violations created by multinational activities...[I]f damages are incurred despite a parent company having implemented an adequate vigilance plan, the company will not be liable: a company is not required to guarantee results, but only to prove that it has done everything in its power to avoid damages...We ask the French Government to continue on this path and promote the duty of vigilance law at European and international level, and show support for other initiatives aiming to improve corporate accountability, like the UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights in order to guaranty a globalization respectful of populations and our planet.

Download the full document here

Article
21 February 2017

France adopts corporate duty of vigilance law

Author: European Coalition for Corporate Justice

The French Parliament adopted a much-awaited law establishing a duty of vigilance obligation for parent and subcontracting companies.  The law marks a historic step towards improving corporate respect for human rights and the environment.  ECCJ joins the French corporate accountability platform, Forum Citoyen pour la RSE in calling on European countries, the EU institutions, and the international community to develop similar legislation.  The law, which only applies to the largest French companies, will make the latter assess and address the adverse impacts of their activities on people and the planet, by having them publish annual, public vigilance plans.  This includes impacts linked to their own activities, those of companies under their control, and those of suppliers and subcontractors, with whom they have an established commercial relationship.  When companies default on these obligations, the law empowers victims and other concerned parties to bring the issue before a judge.  Judges can apply fines of up to € 10 million when companies fail to publish plans.  Fines can go up to € 30 million if this failure resulted in damages that would otherwise have been preventable.  Despite being a major achievement, French civil society organisations argue the law’s text could have been more ambitious...

Download the full document here

Article
14 December 2016

French Duty of Vigilance Law - English translation

Author: European Coalition for Corporate Justice

...Any company that at the end of two consecutive financial years, employs at least five thousand employees within the company and its direct and indirect subsidiaries, whose head office is located on French territory, or that has at least ten thousand employees in its service and in its direct or indirect subsidiaries, whose head office is located on French territory or abroad, must establish and implement an effective vigilance plan...The plan shall include the reasonable vigilance measures to allow for risk identification and for the prevention of severe violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, serious bodily injury or environmental damage or health risks resulting directly or indirectly from the operations of the company and of the companies it controls...

Download the full document here

Article
30 November 2016

Corporate duty of vigilance: another step forward towards the French law’s adoption

Author: European Coalition for Corporate Justice

On 29 November, French Members of the National Assembly (lower house of French Parliament) adopted in new reading the draft law on duty of vigilance for parent and subcontracting companies...[T]he bill still represents an important step forward in the fight against corporate impunity for human rights and environmental abuses...French MPs...have now reaffirmed the central objective of the bill – obliging large companies to carry out a vigilance plan to identify and prevent risks associated with their activities, throughout their supply chains.  This means liability would apply when companies default on their obligations, including the presence of faults in the plan and its implementation, or the absence of a plan...Another new element is that a company's stakeholders, like trade union representatives or civil society groups, could be involved in the development of the vigilance plan...[T]he bill still has its limitations. It only affects around 100 major business groups, it does not include a strong provision aimed at facilitating access to justice for victims...In spite of its shortcomings, the draft law nevertheless remains an undeniable first step forward...

Read the full post here

Article
21 October 2016

France: Unpacking the Bill on corporate due diligence

Author: Nadia Bernaz, Middlesex University School of Law, on RightsasUsual

"Unpacking the French Bill on Corporate Due Diligence: a presentation at the International Business and Human Rights Conference in Sevilla", 21 Oct 2016

...In 2015, a group of [French] Parliamentarians introduced an ambitious bill on corporate due diligence...

...In March 2016, the Assemblée Nationale adopted bill #2 again during the second reading of the bill. Following French law making procedure, he bill was sent again to the Senate. On 13 October 2016, the Senate adopted a modified version of the bill, bill #3.

The Senate has transformed a bill that was supposed to enhance corporate legal liability into a bill which main aim is to transpose the EU directive on non-financial reporting. The bill is now about producing a report, and it includes the possibility to force companies to do it but crucially there is nothing about damages and victims of human rights violations... In short, the core aspect of the bill, corporate liability for human rights violations, is gone.

We're now in a situation where the Senate and the Assemblée Nationale are in disagreement since they each adopted a different version of the bill (bill #2 in the Assemblée Nationale, bill #3 in the Senate)...[A] special parliamentary committee made of members of both chambers to try to find a compromise [has now to be set up]...

Read the full post here

Article
30 March 2016

France: Natl. Assembly adopts bill on corporate duty of care in supply chains; NGOs welcome move

"French Duty of Care law: despite business pressure, an important step towards final adoption", 24 Mar 2016

On Wednesday 23rd March, the French National Assembly adopted in second reading the legislative proposal on parent company duty of care (« devoir de vigilance »).  While French civil society organisations regret the text has not been improved, they welcome its adoption by a strong majority...They now call on the government, which reiterated its support to the bill yesterday during the Parliamentary debate, to bring the process to a successful conclusion before this summer. They also call on the Senate to put it on its agenda as soon as possible...By embedding this obligation to develop “vigilance plans” – plans to ensure due diligence throughout companies’ operations – this law would ensure that large French companies are responsible for their impacts, in France and in its value chain. This law originates from the urgent need to prevent environmental damage and human rights violations caused by corporate activities...On 18th May, members of national parliaments from all EU states are invited to meet and support the French initiative for a “Green Card”, which aims to get the Commission to engage in a similar legislative process at EU level...

Read the full post here