MEPs & companies call for EU-level human rights due diligence legislation

MEPs and several large companies are calling for the EU to pass binding due diligence regulation for companies to address environmental and human rights impacts in supply chains.

This demand is central to a Shadow EU Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct launched by the European Parliament Working Group on Responsible Business Conduct (RBC Group) on 19 March 2019. The MEPs initiative is a reaction to the EU's failure to develop an action plan on responsible business conduct, despite a 2011 commitment from the European Commission to implement the UN Guiding Principles, and sets out the necessary steps towards ensuring a responsible and accountable European business sector.

The Shadow EU Action Plan includes proposed action points on 

  • mandatory due diligence for EU businesses & businesses operating in the EU, and
  • protecting human rights defenders.

A coalition of NGOs have welcomed news of the Shadow Action Plan, and are calling on the EU Commission to follow suit and develop an official action plan. 

The British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL) in a consortium with Civic Consulting and LSE Consulting is currently also conducting a study for the European Commission on regulatory options to require business to undertake human rights due diligence in their supply chains. More information can be found here.

More information is available below. See here for our blog calling for stronger and more harmonized human rights due diligence requirements in the EU.

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Article
10 April 2019

Chocolate co's & MEPs call for EU due diligence regulation

Author: Fern

Major chocolate companies and MEPs are calling for the EU to pass a due diligence regulation addressing environmental and human rights impacts in commodity supply chains...

Mars Incorporated [...] called such regulation “inevitable”, speaking about the “limits of [companies] self-regulating the supply chain”, and insisting that legislation is needed to create the right enabling environment. 

Companies want the EU to regulate so as to “avoid a patchwork of legislation at the national level”, said [...] Mondelez International [...] – adding that an enforcement mechanism is essential to ensure the law is effective. Barry Callebaut Group [...] highlight[ed] the need for a level playing field so as not to disadvantage companies that incur extra social and environmental costs, and noting that regulation should be accompanied by EU support to producer country governments. 

MEPs have been making similar calls, launching an ambitious Shadow EU Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct on 19 March 2019. The Action Plan strongly urges the European Commission to draft human rights due diligence legislation for the EU, and to take measures to protect human rights defenders. Fifty-seven MEPs have so far pledged to carry this proposal forward if they are re-elected at the EU elections in May. 

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Article
29 March 2019

MEPs call on EU Commission to take legislative action on human rights due diligence for companies

Author: Benjamin Fox, Euractiv

"Table human rights due diligence law, MEPs tell Commission", 28 March 2019

MEPs have launched ambitious plans for an EU law requiring companies to carry out human rights due diligence in their supply chains.

The demand of the next European Commission is at the heart of the shadow EU Action plan launched on 19 March by the European Parliament’s Responsible Business Conduct Working Group...

Such a law would require companies to carry out checks on their supply chains and look at risks that their activities may be harming human rights...

Almost half of all major EU companies have been the subject of documented accusations of human rights violations...

Businesses stress the need for a level playing field and a harmonised approach to avoid overlapping EU and national laws...

The European Commission has welcomed the Action Plan but has so far refused to commit to tabling new legislation.

On 20 March, the Commission published its own Staff Working Document assessing progress towards meeting the UNGPs. The EU executive had been “encouraging companies to carry out appropriate due diligence, including with respect to human rights protection along their supply chains”, the paper argues.

A 2011 commitment from the European Commission to develop an Action Plan on responsible business conduct has been left unfulfilled for almost a decade and is likely to lapse yet again with the outgoing Commission...

[C]ivil society activists and companies are also anxious to ensure that any new due diligence regulation is not just based on ‘knowing and showing’, and that there are sanctions for non-compliance...

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Article
19 March 2019

EU: NGOs welcome MEP initiative on responsible business conduct

Author: ActionAid, Amnesty International, Anti-Slavery International, CCC, ECCJ, FIDH

Today the cross-party European Parliament Working Group on Responsible Business Conduct (RBC Group) announced a bold Shadow EU Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct outlining the necessary steps to ensuring a globally responsible and accountable European business sector.

The undersigning NGOs highly welcome the MEPs’ initiative to react to EU inertia in progressing the agenda on responsible business conduct and sustainable global supply chains. A 2011 commitment from the European Commission to develop an Action Plan on responsible business conduct has been left unfulfilled... Meanwhile, the evidence of the link between European companies and human rights and environmental abuses worldwide continues to grow, with almost half of all major EU companies subject to documented accusations of human rights violations.

A coalition of ActionAid, Amnesty International, Anti-Slavery International, Clean Clothes Campaign, the European Coalition for Corporate Justice and FIDH... therefore urge the European Commission to follow suit and take immediate steps towards the development of the overdue action plan. The ambitious and comprehensive Shadow EU Action Plan presented today by MEPs should serve as a strong basis for EU action that must now make up for lost time...

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Article
19 March 2019

Shadow EU Action Plan on Business & Human Rights

Author: RBC Working Group of the European Parliament

The RBC wg [Responsible Business Conduct Working Group of the European Parliament] launched a Shadow EU Action Plan on Business and Human Rights on the 19 March.

This Shadow EU Action Plan is a signal to the European Commission and the Council of the European Union that time is ripe for the EU to put systematic and effective measures in place implementing the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs)...

The EU endorsed the UNGPs in 2011... Fourteen Member States have developed National Action Plans since then...

The EU in contrast has so far failed to do so.

It is urgent time for the EU... to take action. The EU is the world’s largest economy, a trading hub with significant economic and political power to influence the regulation of economic operations worldwide.

The EU and its member states are also increasingly subsidizing European companies operating in developing and neighbouring countries. It therefore carries a particular responsibility to prove leadership in the promotion and protection of human rights against business-related human rights abuses. 

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