German parliament passes human rights due diligence law:

An important step – but not enough for those affected


Berlin, 11 June 2021 – Today, after months of negotiations, the German Bundestag passed a due diligence law that requires German companies and their direct suppliers to better protect human rights and the environment. The law came about primarily due to pressure from civil society, but was massively weakened by business associations in negotiations and thus falls short of international human rights standards.

Please find a statement by Miriam Saage-Maaß, director of ECCHR’s Business and Human Rights program, below:

“For decades, German companies have profited at the expense of people and the environment. That a due diligence law was finally passed today is an important and long overdue step. Voluntary social standards have failed, and time and again, German companies such as the retailer KiK and certifier TÜV Süd have also contributed to human rights violations. With the due diligence law, the German government is finally making human rights and environmental protection mandatory for companies.

But the law does not do justice to those affected by human rights violations. It not only falls far short of civil society expectations – but also international human rights standards. This is due to the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union party and business associations that put business interests above human lives and the climate crisis, and refuse to socially and ecologically transform the economy.

The due diligence law only holds larger German companies and their direct suppliers accountable for acute or imminent human rights violations. This disregards obligations under the UN Guiding Principles: every company has the responsibility to prevent the risk of human rights violations – not only to act when it is practically too late. In addition, the entire value chain must be covered, from extracting raw materials to a product’s use, such as in the case of controversial weapons deliveries to warring parties.

Germany’s law does not do justice to its role in the global economy: it fails to address the workers at the end of the supply chain to whom German companies deliberately outsource their processes, and from whom they profit. And this law continues to deny them access to our courts. The urgent question of civil compensation, which was at the heart of the KiK factory fire in Pakistan, for example, remains unresolved. This is unacceptable for those affected by human rights violations, and fails to provide legal clarity for companies.

The task now is to continue to put pressure on politicians and businesses to improve the German law and implement it effectively. At the European Union level, too, we must now fight for a much stronger and ambitious law, which addresses some of these shortcomings and aligns with international standards. This EU legislative framework must ensure civil liability for harm and strengthen access to European courts for victims of corporate human rights and environmental harms in global value chains. The EU law must also cover more companies; all internationally recognized human rights and environmental impacts; as well as the entire value chain. People from the Global South will not stop demanding their rights, and we will continue to support them in this.”

Who we are

To counter injustice with legal interventions – this is the aim and daily work of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights.

ECCHR is an independent, non-profit legal and educational organization dedicated to enforcing civil and human rights worldwide. It was founded in 2007 by Wolfgang Kaleck and other international human rights lawyers to protect and enforce the rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other human rights declarations and national constitutions, through legal means.

Together with those affected and partners worldwide, ECCHR uses legal means to end impunity for those responsible for torture, war crimes, sexual and gender-based violence, corporate exploitation and fortressed borders.

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Philipp Jedamzik
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