EU Member States today agreed to back a renegotiated Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive that includes major concessions - meaning many big companies will face no repercussions for abusing human rights or damaging the environment.

National governments voted on a deal struck in December, which establishes a comprehensive legal framework for communities anywhere in the world to sue large companies operating in the EU responsible for human rights abuses and linked environmental harms in European courts.

However, after weeks of delay and pushback from countries such as Germany, France and Italy, governments voted through a diluted agreement that will profoundly limit the law’s power.

The number of companies that the law applies to will be cut by almost two thirds – from approximately 16,300 to 5,400 as compared to the deal struck in December. Most of those companies will have roughly five years before these rules apply to them. This is even lower than a deal that was on the table last week, which would have captured approximately 1,400 more companies (6,838 in total). [1]

The deal agreed in December would have included safeguards to prevent human rights abuses and environmental damage by smaller companies in high-risk sectors – such as the mining, construction and garment industries. Yet the deal struck today gives these companies a free pass. [2]

A further weakening of the original deal means that companies will not be responsible for their waste disposal – which has been identified as a major issue in, among others, the fashion industry.

Aurelie Skrobik, corporate accountability campaigner at Global Witness, said: This law is a shadow of what it should have been – and what negotiators agreed in December. It will apply to a fraction of the companies who are at risk of abusing human rights and the environment. It’s a relief that we have a law at all – and a testament to the fact that the demand for it is loud and strong. But after years of hard-fought negotiations and compromises, this is an affront by national governments, who don’t seem to think that preventing abuses like child labour is a priority.”