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18 Jul 2020

Volker Witting, Deutsche Welle

Opinion: We need a supply chain law to protect human rights in business

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...In April 2013, more than 1,000 people died in a fire at the Rana Plaza textile factory in Bangladesh. German companies were among those that had shirts and trousers manufactured there. In January 2019, at least 259 people were killed when a dam burst and flooded a Brazilian iron ore mine. The German inspection company TÜV Süd had previously certified that the dam was safe [see e.g. here and here for more incl. company comments].

German companies are doing good business all over the world... But they should also comply with minimum standards of ethical production wherever they work... Companies that cause damage to people and to the environment abroad must be held accountable in Germany.

Angela Merkel's government promised such a law in its coalition agreement, and the results of a second survey of German companies manufacturing abroad has now demonstrated how urgently it is needed...

Lobbyists are of course complaining on behalf of German industry that it is impossible to bring in such a law in the midst of a pandemic... But as we see from the examples of the meat and car industries, voluntary commitments don't help. They are either circumvented or simply ignored...

Politicians must now set out clear rules that must then be monitored and sanctioned. It is up to Chancellor Angela Merkel to take industry in hand and start preparing a supply chain law before the EU does so next year. This would send a good signal from Germany and the European Union, especially during Germany's presidency of the European Council...