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29 Oct 2021

EU: MEPs call for inclusion of access to remedy for victims of corporate abuse in upcoming Sustainable Corporate Governance law proposal

"Request to address barriers to justice for victims of corporate abuse in global value chains in order to enable private enforcement of future Corporate Due Diligence rules", 27 October 2021

Dear President Von der Leyen and Commissioners Reynders and Breton, On behalf of the Responsible Business Conduct Working Group, we would like to draw your attention to what we believe should be an essential component of the proposal for a directive the European Commission is currently preparing under the Sustainable Corporate Governance initiative. As the proposal, originally expected in June 2021, has now been delayed, and little is known yet about its specific provisions, we would like to stress, one more time, the utmost importance that the text address a number of barriers to justice, currently preventing victims of business-related human rights abuses and environmental harm from accessing judicial remedy in the EU.

In March 2021, the European Parliament sent a clear message to the European Commission to develop an ambitious regulatory framework including a civil liability regime and addressing existing barriers to justice in order to enable private enforcement of corporate due diligence requirements.

As shown by the responses to the Commission’s public consultation, stakeholders overwhelmingly support this idea: at least half a million citizens, 200 NGOs and trade unions, 36 companies and 11 business associations consider “judicial enforcement with liability and compensation in case of harm” as the most (or one of the most) appropriate mechanism to enforce due diligence obligations. Public authorities from Germany, France, Belgium and the Czech Republic, as well as the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, hold the same view.

We wish to reiterate our support for such an enforcement mechanism and highlight the main issues the future directive should address in order to remove major obstacles affected people are currently facing in their pursuit of justice. The recommendations below largely build on the lessons learnt from past and ongoing litigation against EU companies for their direct links with human rights abuses and environmental harm overseas, brought to us by a recent report from the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ) and presented by a panel of lawyers 1 and legal experts in a recent hearing at the European Parliament...