Press release / Oct. 3, 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.

Decades of voluntary “corporate social responsibility” initiatives have failed to adequately protect human rights and the environment as problems such as child labour and deforestation remain systemic to many sectors. Globally forced labour is generating annual profits of $150 billion.

In 2018, 321 human rights and environmental defenders were targeted and killed – the highest on record. Amongst those people, three quarters were defending land, environmental or indigenous peoples’ rights, often in the context of extractive and mega-projects.

Overall, European companies and companies operating in the EU are not doing enough to address human rights and environmental risks in their global value chains and operations.

The current situation is provoking regulatory calls from industry, as responsible business efforts remain systemically undermined, leaving responsible businesses at a competitive disadvantage and incentivizing a business race to the bottom.

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.



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