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S&Ds lead the drive for EU rules on businesses behaving responsibly

Date

27 Jan 2021

Sections

Social Europe & Jobs

The S&D Group in the European Parliament wants to see the EU use the weight of its single market with 450 million consumers to set global standards for responsible business conduct and ensure companies know the environmental, social and human rights impact of their operations.

Today MEPs in the legal affairs committee voted on the report on corporate due diligence and corporate accountability drafted by S&D MEP Lara Wolters.

The S&D Group has led the efforts to send a strong message to the Commission to come forward with ambitious proposals for a single EU regime on responsible business conduct across the entire supply chain.

Lara Wolters, S&D MEP and rapporteur on due diligence in the legal affairs committee, said:

“In the EU we buy clothes, food and phones in the knowledge that they are safe to use, but we do not know if they were produced without any harm to the environment or human rights. Only a third of EU companies carry out due diligence checks in the supply chain, so it is abundantly clear that voluntary standards have limitations.

“With today’s vote, the European Parliament is calling for rules that ensure companies have the right checks and processes in place to avoid and mitigate any negative impact they have throughout the entire supply chain. With this law, we want all member states to introduce civil liability rules that ensure companies are held liable for any harm done. The S&D Group also intends to keep up the pressure in calling for access to justice for victims in third countries where we want due-diligence rules to be the applicable rulebook in cases where the subsidiary of an EU mother company causes harm. Now is the right time to set the gold standard for doing business. Anyone who wants to do business in the single market needs to adhere to the rules, including companies based outside the EU.”

Raphaël Glucksmann, S&D MEP and rapporteur on due diligence in the human rights subcommittee said:

"We are now at a decisive moment when we have the chance to change the way international trade is structured and to take back the control over globalisation by imposing principled rules.

“With ambitious human rights due-diligence legislation, we can finally put an end to the impunity and irresponsibility of companies that benefit and profit from child or forced labour through their foreign suppliers. We must make sure that the companies whose products are made by enslaved Uyghurs in China will be held accountable for crimes that allow them to make money.

“The EU is the largest consumer market in the world, therefore the only way to do it is at the European level. That is why I am happy that the text voted today is ambitious and progressive. It sends a strong message to the European Commission that this House will not accept any soft, superficial or voluntary version of due diligence. If well designed and carefully implemented and enforced, due diligence is the best tool to ensure that we are not complicit in any gross violations of human, social or environmental rights." 

Bernd Lange, S&D MEP and chair of the international trade committee, said:

“The coffee we drink or the chocolate muesli we eat in the morning may well have been produced with fruits grown in deforested areas and harvested by children under forced labour. To fight forced and child labour, as well as production methods that poison our soils, the water we drink and the air we breathe, we want companies to face up to their responsibility for production conditions in third countries too. To implement fair rules for globalisation we must start with supply chains. The S&D Group is leading the drive in the European Parliament to create clear human rights and environmental obligations for companies. We want rules with teeth that cover the entire supply chain, create transparency and use the leverage of existing trade deals and trade instruments. The new laws must ensure that goods manufactured by forced labour cannot be sold on the internal market and that production conditions are improved. Our responsibility does not stop at our borders.

“EU trade policy is a tool to shape our common future. With our due-diligence proposal we are pushing for a progressive trade policy that will protect the planet and people.”

 

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