Corporate Responsibility - Suggestions for EU Reforms

ECCHR Study, May 2010

by Christiane Gerstetter and Alexander Kamieth

ECCHR lawyers Christiane Gerstetter and Alexander Kamieth have put together a study that maps out EU- legal reforms required for the prosecution of businesses that violate human rights and environmental norms abroad. Alongside two case studies, they investigate the extent to which European businesses are liable for environmental destruction or human rights abuse committed by their subsidiary- or delivery-firms abroad.

The first case study discussed levels charges against a subsidiary firm of the ThyssenKrupp AG in Brazil, while the second investigates an Aldi supplier firm in China. The study concludes that the current German legal structure makes it impossible for victims to claim compensation from corporate headquarters in Germany. Legal reforms, therefore, are required at an EU level.

In response to the current deficit in regulation, the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ) - a civil society organization that campaigns for mandatory corporate responsibility- has developed three main objectives necessary to make European companies liable for their activities abroad. These suggestions for EU reform will be concretized by analysis from both authors alongside the case studies. The study shows how the ECCJ recommendations to European institutions would greatly improve the likelihood of compensation through German courts for those affected overseas by the activities of firms which supply, or are subsidiaries of, German businesses.

The study was commissioned by the political development organization Germanwatch as part of the European campaign, "Rights for People - Rules for Businesses".

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