Letter to von der Leyen: time for the EU to get serious about ending corporate abuse
December 8th, 2021
On Wednesday, 8 December, the European Coalition for Corporate Justice and 47 other civil society and trade union organisations sent an open letter to the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen asking her to show that the EU is serious about addressing corporate abuse, following last week’s news that the sustainable corporate governance draft law has been delayed to 2022.

Despite a promise to deliver a “solid and well-balanced” proposal in 2021, we have been made aware via press reports that the legislative initiative has been further delayed. We are deeply concerned by the complete lack of transparency on the reasons for this new delay.

It is unacceptable that the law – aiming to both help millions of people demand justice against corporate human rights violations and safeguard our environment and the climate – is delayed for the third time.

This development is highly damaging for people suffering from irresponsible corporate behaviour and for the environment. Postponing legislative action perpetuates a situation where companies are allowed to profit from forced labour in their global supply chains; where local communities and indigenous peoples are branded as criminals, attacked and murdered for defending our planet; where workers live in fear of their life-threatening working conditions; where women suffer from gender discrimination and low wages that do not allow them to live in dignity; and where victims of abuse are made to wait for more than a decade for justice.

This unexplained delay risks undermining the trust that citizens, civil society and victims of corporate abuse have placed in the EU to promote sustainable and responsible business in the wake of the COVID pandemic and of the climate and biodiversity crisis. The Commission’s public consultation resulted in half a million global citizen and civil society responses calling for a strong and ambitious law. Moreover, in a recent YouGov opinion poll, over 80 percent of citizens from multiple EU countries said they want a strong EU law to hold companies liable for their human rights and environmental violations.

The European Parliament has also called for the Commission to come forward with robust legislation introducing binding human rights and environmental due diligence in March of this year, supported by all major political groups.

The letter sets out that it is more important than ever to ensure a level playing field for all companies, as well as a coherent legal framework to recognise companies’ liability to respect human rights and the environment across their global value chains, while improving victims’ access to justice.

The letter calls on Commission President Von der Leyen to publicly reiterate her commitment to making supply chains of companies active on the EU market sustainable through ambitious, binding human rights and environmental due diligence legislation.

We also request full transparency on the reasons for the delay and on the decision-making process going forward.