Today, the European Commission is submitting its long-awaited legislative proposal on sustainable corporate due diligence to the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. The aim is to obligate European companies to protect human rights and the environment across their global value chains, as well as to improve corporate accountability and access to justice.
The proposal would require both EU- and non-EU-based companies operating in the EU’s domestic market that have more than 500 employees and 150 million euros in revenue to prevent human rights violations and environmental damage across the entire network of their value chains. Due diligence obligations would also apply to companies with more than 250 employees in sectors with a high risk of human rights abuse or environmental harm, such as mining, textiles and agriculture. Furthermore, the proposed system of enforcement comprises an EU-wide network of national regulators combined with access to civil courts for those affected.
The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) welcomes the proposal and considers it an important step in the right direction. We now call upon the co-legislators (EU Council and Parliament) to act more ambitiously.
ECCHR’s Legal Director Miriam Saage-Maaß commented: “The final EU policy should be closely aligned with internationally recognized standards and should apply to all companies regardless of their size. The current proposal only covers about 1 percent of companies operating in the EU market. Furthermore, there is no reason why the definition of high risk sectors should exclude transport, electronics and construction, when these sectors are also rife with human rights violations.”
“Access to justice must be strengthened as well, as significant hurdles to effective legal remedies such as time limitations, court fees and burden of proof have not been addressed,” added Ben Vanpeperstraete, senior legal advisor at ECCHR. “Given the transnational character of corporate human rights violations, the proposal currently ignores the costly, lengthy and complex nature of access to justice.”
Legislating human rights due diligence: Respecting rights or ticking boxes? Briefing paper, January 2022