EU corporate due diligence law must be gender-responsive
November 29th, 2021
On International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, the European Coalition for Corporate Justice and 60 civil society organisations sent an open letter to European Commissioners and other policy makers, urging them to make the forthcoming corporate human rights and environmental due diligence law gender-responsive.

Women who defend human rights and the environment across the world are at the forefront of the fight against all forms of discrimination and inequality. Yet they constantly face harassment, imprisonment, stigmatisation, criminalisation and violence for protecting environmental, land and indigenous peoples’ rights.

In 2020, 13 % of the 331 human rights defenders killed worldwide were women. Most of these killings occurred in the context of business activities, with Latin America being the most affected region.

Gender-specific impacts happen in all sectors, from extractives, manufacturing and agriculture to food services industry and the garment sector where women make up 80% of the workforce. Furthermore, 71% of people living in modern slavery are women.

The European Union has the opportunity to help protect the rights of the nearly 190 million women working in global supply chains through the upcoming Sustainable Corporate Governance directive.

The open letter sets out recommendations for a gender-responsive directive:

  1. Include a reference to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women  and the ILO conventions on migrant workers and violence at work.
  2. Create a robust liability regime enabling victims to access justice and obtain an effective remedy by reducing gender inequality, vulnerabilities and marginalisation.
  3. Cover entire value chains, including semi-formal and informal working schemes, unofficial subcontracting and home-based work at the lowest tiers of value chains.
  4. Apply to companies of all sizes as sectors where women are hit hardest include many small and medium-sized enterprises.
  5. Identify gender-based violence and sexual harassment as severe risks of human rights violations to be prevented, redressed and remedied.
  6. Ensure gender-sensitive human rights and environmental impact assessments.
  7. Provide gender-responsive stakeholder engagement and alert mechanisms, without any risk of retaliation and with safe and equal participation of women in decision-making processes.
  8. Include purchasing practices of companies in the framework of human rights and environmental due diligence processes.

The letter emphasizes that a gender-responsive approach to corporate regulation is instrumental in advancing women’s and girls’ rights, under international commitments like the Sustainable Development Goals and the Beijing Declaration.

We urge the EU Commission to seize this unique opportunity to fight gender inequality and discrimination in global value chains.


ActionAid International, Aktionsgemeinschaft Solidarische Welt e.V. ASW (Germany), ALTSEAN-Burma, Anti-Slavery International, Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Eine Welt-Landesnetzwerke in Deutschland e.V., Association of Ethical Shareholders Germany, Broederlijk Delen (Belgium), Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC), CARE International, CCFD-Terre Solidaire (France), Christian Initiative Romero (CIR), Clean Clothes Campaign, Coordinadora Latinoamericana y del Caribe de Pequeños Productores y Trabajadores de Comercio Justo (CLAC), CorA Network for Corporate Accountability (Germany), Corporate Justice Coalition (UK), Dachverband Entwicklungspolitik Baden-Württemberg, DEAB e.V.(Germany), Entwicklungspolitisches Netzwerk Sachsen ENS (Germany), EU-LAT Network, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ), European Network Committees Oscar Romero, European Public Service Union (EPSU), Fair Trade Advocacy Office, Fairtrade Deutschland e.V., Fairtrade International, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), FEMNET e.V., Friends of the Earth Europe, Global Policy Forum Europe, Global Witness, Human Rights International Corner ETS (Italy), Human Rights Watch, INKOTA-netzwerk, International Dalit Solidarity Network, IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands, Justice et Paix (Belgium), New Financial Forum Foundation (Netherlands), Oidhaco: Oficina Internacional de Derechos Humanos Acción Colombia, Open Society European Policy Institute, OQ Consulting BV (Netherlands/Germany), Our Food. Our Future (OFOF), Oxfam International, Pax Christi International, PICUM (Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants), Polish Institute for Human Rights and Business, Rainforest Alliance, Réseau France Colombie Solidarités – RFCS (France), ShareAction, Südwind (Austria), Swedwatch, TERRE DES FEMMES e.V. (Germany), Vamos por la paz – Ensemble pour la paix ( France & Colombia ), Vredesactie (Belgium), WEED – World Economy, Ecology & Development e.V., Werkstatt Ökonomie (Germany), WeWorld Onlus (Italy), Women Engage for a Common Future – WECF International, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, World House, Wetten (Germany), World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), and WSM (Belgium).