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Questions & Answers: Water giant SUEZ is summoned on the basis of duty of vigilance law

WHAT DOES THE ACTION FILED TODAY BY FIDH, OBSERVATORIO CIUDADANO, RED AMBIENTAL, AND LDH CONSIST OF?

Following this formal notice, FIDH, LDH, Observatorio Ciudadano, and Red Ambiental Ciudadana de Osorno met with SUEZ twice to discuss and try to obtain a modification of the vigilance plan that would take their concerns into account, and thus avoid the recurrence of such a health crisis in the future.
As the 2021 vigilance plan published by SUEZ on 29 April 2021 did not meet the expectations expressed by the four organisations, they summoned the company to appear before the Nanterre judicial court.

WHAT WILL BE THE NEXT STEPS?

The Court will have to rule on the requests of the applicant associations to order the SUEZ Group, if necessary under penalty, to publish within six months a new complete due diligence plan meeting the obligations set out in the French duty of vigilance law. In particular, the SUEZ Group is asked to detail its risk mapping by prioritising the risks and including the precise methodology used to prioritise the risks and the methods of consultation with local communities and stakeholders. It is also asked to describe the measures for mitigating these risks and preventing serious human rights violations.

The purpose of this vigilance plan will be to put in place effective measures to prevent new health crises from occurring due to the negligent behaviour of SUEZ’s subsidiaries...

WHY INTRODUCE THIS ACTION IN FRANCE RATHER THAN IN CHILE?

While Chilean health and judicial authorities have sanctioned ESSAL, a SUEZ-controlled company in Chile, multiple times, the quality of water provision has not been substantially improved.

In such a situation, the French Law on Corporate Duty of Vigilance could be used to oblige SUEZ, ESSAL’s parent company, to live up to its responsibility to respect human rights and ensure that they are respected in its value chain. SUEZ earned €159 million in profits from the operations of its subsidiary Aguas Andinas, through which it controls ESSAL and other subsidiaries in Chile, but has not been held accountable for the catastrophic impacts of the recurring water shutdowns and the irregularities in its water provision services.

It is common knowledge that SUEZ has many operations in Chile: 43.8% of the Chilean urban population is supplied by companies controlled by the SUEZ Group, making it a major player in Chile with regard to impact on respect for human rights and the environment...

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