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20 Jul 2020

Martin Curley, EUIdeas

Commentary: Grounding mandatory due diligence proposals in social dialogue systems will strengthen their effectiveness

"Human Rights Due Diligence: Making it mandatory – and effective", 3 July 2020

COVID has created a crisis that illustrates issues with due diligence. Clothing brands have cancelled billions of euros of orders following COVID-related sales slumps...

One could argue that brands conducting genuine  ‘good’ due diligence would have: 1) Identified weak social safety nets as a human rights risk; 2) Acknowledged their role in creating the risk ...; and 3) Set aside financial support to workers in case of a crisis that would lead to mass cancellations.

However, there is no mechanism defining ‘good’ due diligence. And without such a mechanism, mandatory due diligence laws risk simply codifying ineffective voluntary measures...

The guiding principles [...] mention roles for labour and civil society. I would argue those roles should be far more central in any EU mandatory due diligence law: the definition of ‘good’ human rights due diligence should be negotiated through an EU-wide, transnational, sectoral collective bargaining process.

Building a formal role for labour into due diligence legislation would dramatically strengthen its effectiveness. Dozens of questions would need to be answered for such a system to work, on everything from relations to existing trade unions to roles of governments... However, models already exist...

Such an initiative will not fix all human rights problems; however it could give due diligence much needed rigor; it would create a model for negotiating with economic networks, and  provide an opportunity for a new, governance-focused transnational solidarity that is essential to counterbalance transnational supply chains.