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French Duty of Care law: despite business pressure, important step made towards final adoption

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On Wednesday, 23 March, the French National Assembly adopted in second reading the legislative proposal on parent company duty of care (devoir de vigilance).

While French civil society organisations regret the text has not been improved, they welcome its adoption by a strong majority (32 votes in favor, 1 against). They now call on the government, which reiterated its support to the bill yesterday during the Parliamentary debate, to bring the process to a successful conclusion before this summer. They also call on the Senate to put it on its agenda as soon as possible. There is still a long way to go until final adoption of the law, which will also require an implementation decree, hopefully by the end of the year.

The supporters of the bill have been under pressure in the past days, especially from the French Association of Private Enterprises and other business groups.

By embedding this obligation to develop vigilance plans – plans to ensure due diligence throughout companies’ operations – the law would make certain that large French companies are responsible for their impacts, in France and in their value chain. The legislative proposal originates in the urgent need to prevent environmental damage and human rights violations caused by corporate activities world wide.

Despite its shortcomings, the French law would be a historic step towards greater attention given to human rights by transnational enterprises and would contribute to the prevention of tragic events such as the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh in 2013.

The French bill is yet another sign that a movement has started in this direction and it is expanding across Europe. Similar debates have been launched in a few other European countries. On 18th May, members of national parliaments from all EU States are invited to meet and support the French initiative for a “Green Card”, which aims to get the Commission to engage in a similar legislative process at EU level.

ECCJ congratulates the efforts of French NGOs Sherpa, Amnesty International France, CCFD-Terre Solidaire, Collectif Ethique sur l’Ethiquette and Les Amis de La Terre in bringing together the voices of those affected by corporations around the world and actively supporting this process for the past four years.

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