An EU mandatory due diligence legislation to promote businesses’ respect for human rights and the environment

All around the world, businesses are responsible for human rights abuses and environmental harm, as underscored by the recent COVID-19 crisis. Businesses must not be allowed to close their eyes to the impact of their business decisions on other actors in the chain.

Voluntary measures have proved to be vastly insufficient, as recognised by the recent European Commission study on due diligence requirements through the supply chain. Therefore, new legislation is urgently needed to establish clear, robust and enforceable cross-sectoral requirements on business enterprises, including financial institutions, to respect human rights and the environment and to carry out due diligence.

The European Commission has committed, within the framework of the European Green Deal, to bring together all EU actions and policies to help achieve a successful and just transition towards a sustainable future. As highlighted by the President of the European Commission on several occasions, this transformation ahead of us will only work if it is just and works for all.1 More recently, Commissioner Reynders has committed to a legislative proposal on human rights and environmental due diligence in 2021 as his contribution to the European Green Deal.

Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically laid bare the precarious nature of global value chains, and shown just how reliant all countries and people are on one another. The Council of the European Union has clearly recognised that corporate respect for human rights throughout corporate operations and value and supply chains is indispensable to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

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