justice-business-demands @ Justice is everybody's business

European Union: 100 civil society and trade union organisations demand: EU law must put human rights before profits

No more exploitation, no more environmental destruction, no more unjust business practices by European companies. Those are the demands of the Justice is Everybody’s Business campaign, launched today in Brussels by nearly 100 civil society and trade union organisations. The campaign urges the EU to issue a strong due diligence law that effectively requests businesses to prevent human rights and environmental harm and provides effective tools to hold businesses accountable for failures and harm.

Mark Dummett, Head of Amnesty International’s Business and Human Rights Team, said:

“Business as usual is no longer an option. Stronger standards are required to hold businesses accountable so that they do not harm people and our planet. We still see human rights abuses, businesses working directly with regimes with atrocious human rights records, exploitation of workers, child labour in supply chains, environmental damage, and carbon emissions contributing to the climate crisis. It is time for the EU to issue the strongest possible text and consign bad business practices to history,”

In February this year, the European Commission unveiled its proposal for an EU law requiring large companies to conduct checks on their investments and supply chains to identify, prevent and address human rights and environmental risks and impacts within and outside the EU. However, the proposal contains major loopholes that will fail to guarantee justice.

The current proposal will fail to meaningfully prevent harm beyond the first tier of the supply chain. Yet, human rights abuses often occur further up in the supply chain, several steps and sub-contractors away from the European companies.

It also fails to sufficiently empower those suffering from harmful business practices to get justice in courts within the EU. Instead of striking down serious legal hurdles for those trying to file lawsuits against companies, the current proposal still makes it easy for corporations to evade responsibility.

Claudia Saller, director at the European Coalition for Corporate Justice said: “The dominant business model of ‘profit is king’ is killing our present and our future. When people come together as a counterweight, we can tip the scales of power. Otherwise EU leaders only hear what big corporate lobbies tell them.”

The draft law also fails to oblige companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and to hold them liable for failing to do so, despite their massive impact on the climate crisis.

Jill McArdle, corporate accountability campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: “After a summer of droughts, heatwaves and fires, we are here to tell EU leaders that no amount of greenwashing can hide the new everyday reality of the climate crisis. Companies are major polluters, and as such, must be obliged to reduce their emissions. But if they fail to do so, people must be able to take them to court.”

The campaign will be kicked off today with a public action in Brussels where a 3 metre tall ‘scales of justice’ will show the current imbalances between corporate profits on one side and human rights, environmental and climate justice on the other side – and that public pressure can tip the scales.

Isabelle Schömann, Confederal Secretary at the ETUC said:“Our campaign begins at the heart of European decision-making, but it doesn’t stop here. The EU should take up its responsibility and set future worldwide standards for more corporate accountability, responsible business conduct and ensure better and free access to justice including for trade unions. We will support all actions across Europe that will end human rights, including trade union rights, violations.”

A poll conducted in nine EU countries last year indicated that over 80% of European citizens want strong laws to hold companies liable for overseas human rights and environmental violations.

In a 2021 petition, more than half a million people and 700 civil society organisations from around the world expressed support for such an EU law.

Background

The ‘Justice is Everybody’s Business’ campaign is a coalition of civil society and trade union organisations from Europe and beyond. It is steered by CIDSE (Coopération Internationale pour le Développement et la Solidarité), the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ), the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), the Forum Citoyen pour la Responsabilité Sociale des Entreprises, and Friends of the Earth Europe. 100 organisations support the campaign. For more information about the “Justice is Everybody’s Business” campaign, visit: https://justice-business.org.