On 6 September 2022 – coinciding with the latest negotiating round on the EU supply chain law in the European Council - a new campaign started under the headline “Justice Is Everybody’s Business”. Displaying the “Scales of Justice” in front of the main entrance of the Council building, numerous representatives of the more than 100 participating organisations, among them AK EUROPA, drew attention to the campaign’s demand to guarantee justice for people who suffer damage by bad business practices.
On 23 February 2022, after several months of delay, the EU Commission presented a proposal for an EU supply chain law. Intensive negotiations on the legal act in the EU Parliament and Council will take place in autumn. The aim of the “Justice Is Everybody’s Business” campaign is to accompany these negotiations. More than 100 trade unions and organisations from civil society have come together to jointly argue the case for a fair law on corporate sustainability. Both AK EUROPA and ÖGB Europabüro are taking part as supporting organisations and will contribute to the campaign.
The proposal by the EU Commission on the EU supply chain law provides, inter alia, for only large businesses with more than 500 employees and a global net turnover of more than 150 million Euro, with the exception of individual sectors, to be encompassed. Hence, only 0.2 % of EU enterprises would be covered by the planned regulation. However, the limited scope is only one of several sectors, where the campaign is demanding improvements. It is the campaign’s objective to establish a European legal framework for companies, which guarantees the protection of human rights and the natural habitat and the environment.
The campaign is based on 10 concrete demands to political decision makers in Brussels and the Member States, which are also supported by AK. Hence, strict obligations shall be imposed on companies to prevent human rights violations and to avert or immediately end damages to the environment and climate. Such obligations have to relate to the entire supply chain to avoid loopholes and to protect particularly vulnerable stakeholders. At the same time, an effective enforcement of possible compensation claims in case of infringements by companies must be guaranteed. However, not only damaged parties, but also trade unions and civil society stakeholders shall be entitled to bring action before European courts. Another demand, as an elementary component of a comprehensive EU supply chain law, is to guarantee collective bargaining by trade unions and that labour representatives are granted a genuine say as regards to adhering to due diligence. In particular, these organisations have the knowledge concerning possible human rights and environmental risks and also the capacities to propose concrete measures to improving the local situation.
What happens next?
During the coming weeks and months, consultations will take place in the EU Parliament and Council, which will be decisive as to whether a powerful EU supply chain law may become reality in the near future. There is certainly no lack of potential obstacles. Hence, according to a proposal by the Czech Presidency, a prioritisation according to risk might be included in the legislative text. This proposal being an improvement to just scrutinising “established business relationships” (as provided for in the Commission proposal), it still has to be ensured that companies do not evade a general obligation regards due diligence and sustainability. This would be contrary to the demands of the campaign. Not only watering down the contents of the proposal must be avoided; it will also be important to ensure that the negotiations are not delayed any further to make sure that the law can be adopted before the next EU parliamentary elections in 2024.