ETUC Statement: An EU directive on due diligence and responsible business conduct

A European directive on Human Rights due diligence and responsible business conduct including their supply chains will make the difference in better protecting workers rights and environmental standards. The Commission needs to act!

In the next days, the European Commission will publish a report of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL) on due diligence requirements for supply chains. The report analyses the state of play and the need for initiatives at European level, paving the way to a possible commission initiative.

Commissioner Reynders already recognised during his hearing in front of the European Parliament that voluntary commitments in the area of due diligence are not enough. Effective and ambitious proposals need now to follow.

We call on the European Commission to present as soon as possible a proposal for a European directive on mandatory human rights due diligence and responsible business conduct.

It should establish mandatory and effective due diligence mechanisms covering companies’ activities and business relationships, including their supply and subcontracting chains. Such a directive would constitute an important step forward to ensure the respect and enforcement of human rights. Human rights should include trade unions’ and workers’ rights.

The directive should empower workers to fight against violations of human rights. It should ensure the full involvement of trade unions and workers’ representatives in the whole due diligence process.

Effective remedies and access to justice should be available for victims, including trade unions. Companies should be accountable for the impacts of their operations. Liability must be introduced for cases where companies fail to respect their due diligence obligations, without prejudice to joint and several liability.

A European directive on mandatory human rights due diligence and responsible business conduct should stop violations of human rights, including workers’ and trade union rights, that continue to take place in multinationals’ operations, and their supply and subcontracting chains. Violations of workers’ rights are frequent including in rights including freedom of association, collective bargaining, the right to information, consultation and participation, to take collective action, fair remuneration, decent working conditions and health and safety in the workplace. Such violations must stop.

Today, corporations operate across borders. Complex corporate structures and supply and subcontracting chains enable parent companies to avoid responsibility for human rights and violations of social and environmental standards. It is furthermore difficult to trace the negative social and environmental impacts of their global operations.

The EU must act! It must act now: there is a clear and concrete political responsibility to live up to the EU objectives, its attachment to the principles of liberty, democracy and respect for human rights!