Press release / 2 Dec 2019

Huge call for EU human rights and environmental due diligence legislation

Global Witness and other civil society organisations including NGOs and trade unions at a global, European and national level have issued a strong call to action to the European Commission to bring forward corporate accountability legislation requiring companies to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for human rights abuses and environmental damage of their operations, subsidiaries or value chains.

Some businesses and financial institutions are already taking steps to meet their responsibility to respect human rights and the environment in their global operations, subsidiaries, portfolios and supply chains. However, too many others are linked to serious abuses. Exploitative working conditions, corruption, rampant destruction of forests, land-grabs and evictions of indigenous peoples, violent attacks on human rights and environmental defenders are widespread in the global value chains of companies conducting business in the EU. 

Current EU policy and legislation fails to adequately address this challenge. Despite growing attention being paid to these issues, there are still no cross-sectoral laws in the EU requiring companies and financial institutions to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for human rights abuses and environmental damage of their operations, subsidiaries or value chains.

Absence of such laws makes it impossible for companies to be held legally accountable when they neglect their responsibility to respect human rights and the environment. Meanwhile, consumers across the EU purchase products and services tainted by abuses and environmental devastation, and millions of savers have their (pension) savings invested in companies that are behind these abuses. It’s time to change this.

As the world’s largest economy, founded on the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, with various human rights and environmental policy goals, it’s vital that the EU takes the lead in and develops a clear and comprehensive economy-wide legislation.

The joint statement sets out the need for strong legislation which would embed into already-existing international soft-law standards, such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights & OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct.

Such legislation would make corporate Human Rights and Environmental Due Diligence mandatory; and has already been passed in countries such as France whilst subject to government commitment in Finland, Germany and Italy.

Please click here for the full statement and complete list of signatories.

/ ENDS

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Rachel Owens, Head of EU Advocacy / Directrice du Plaidoyer (UE)

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