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12 Feb 2021

Trade for Development Centre

Belgium: 60 companies & business federations urge Government to introduce due diligence legislation

"Ministers Kitir and Dermagne receive letter from 60 companies for due diligence legislation", 12 Feb 2021

60 companies and business federations have addressed a letter to the Belgian government asking for a national legal framework to be established that obliges companies to take responsibility when it comes to respecting human rights and the environment in their supply chains. They are supported in this by Enabel’s Trade for Development Centre and Fairtrade Belgium.

On Thursday 4 February, Minister of Development Cooperation Meryame Kitir and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Employment Pierre-Yves Dermagne received the letter from two signatories, Ann Claes (JBC) and Bruno Van Steenberghe (Kalani), at the Evere branch of JBC...

According to various recent market studies, Belgians demand transparency and respect for people and the environment. For example, the 2019 study by GFK indicated that 62% of Belgians believe that companies should carry out their activities with respect for human rights and the environment...

Belgian companies make an important contribution to international development, and large parts of our economy depend on the import of raw materials. So we cannot remain blind to what is happening in the supply chains. This is also the reason why more and more companies are committed to playing a positive social role and signing the Belgian SDG Charter for international development.

Preventing, identifying and actively combatting violations of human rights and the environment in international chains entails costs and investments. Legislation also provides incentives and rewards efforts, creating a level playing field between companies...

France, the Netherlands and a few other European countries have not waited for the European legal framework to take action and come up with legislation themselves. By adopting ambitious national legislation, Belgium could influence the European regulations further still. In addition, a Belgian law can give companies the necessary impetus to get themselves ready for and adjust to a market where political decision-makers, consumers and investors have increasingly higher expectations of corporate social responsibility.

This request from the companies is also fully in line with the federal coalition agreement, which states that: “…the government will play a pioneering role in the development of a European legislative framework on duty of care. Where possible, a national framework will be developed in support of this.”