Briefing | Feb. 24, 2020

Why the EU needs to act to ensure companies are not harming people and planet

It is time for the European Union to match its public commitments (UN 2030 agenda, the Paris climate agreement, and to become world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050) by acting swiftly to arrest the irreparable destruction and negative impacts that environmental and human rights abuses have on our planet.

Companies and their financiers are too often linked to large scale projects that result in deforestation, land grabbing and serious human rights abuses around the world. Those on the front line defending their land and environment, are hit the hardest. In 2018, more than three defenders were murdered each week with countless more criminalised and attacked.

Global Witness calls on the European Commission to be a global leader by introducing effective and robust legislation that establishes cross-sectoral mandatory human rights, environmental and governance due diligence obligations for all companies, including finance, operating in the EU, including access to remedy for victims of corporate abuse and effective sanctions.

The political momentum is ripe for concrete action. The Commission study on ‘due diligence requirements through the supply chain’ clearly show an emerging consensus from companies and civil society that the EU needs to act. Voluntary guidelines and standards have failed to achieve the wide ranging and meaningful change in corporate behaviour that is needed. Given that there is a clear support for regulatory action from civil society and that a majority of businesses are recognising the value of enforceable EU rules, the Commission is now well placed to bring forward a legislative proposal this year.

This briefing follows a huge call to action made by 100+ international and European civil society organisations including NGOs and trade unions for the Commission to bring forward corporate accountability legislation in the EU.

In our briefing we outline the need for regulatory action and why the EU is uniquely placed to introduce a set of harmonised due diligence rules across all member states.

Download the full briefing here: Why the EU needs to act to ensure companies are not harming people and planet (653KB)