On 6-7 October 2020, the German Presidency held its flagship event on global supply chains. If there was one thing that was heard loud and clear throughout the two-day event, it’s the need for the EU to take the lead in designing a robust yet workable human rights and environmental due diligence framework.
This was a key topic throughout the conference for several good reasons, not least the potential spillover effects it will generate in other geographies.
Major brands, smaller companies, business and civil society organisations, academia, politicians and think tanks all seemed to concur that the time is ripe. Despite the growing convergence of views, however, the details of the law are yet to be worked out and a number of questions are still unanswered.
For instance, how will the EU system interact with national laws, including the one that is currently being discussed in Germany? What about industry schemes and partnerships? How best to evaluate their impact? What will the liability nature and scope be? Which accompanying measures will be needed to ensure that global value chains are transformed for the better? How to guarantee effective access to remedy?
Some of those questions were addressed on day two of the conference, in a series of technical workshops where participants exchanged views on how to best achieve a smart mix of regulatory and supportive actions.
Importantly, the conference confirmed that a holistic approach to tackling the issues is needed, an approach that moves beyond the mere adoption of legislation.
In February this year, we published a policy position paper on HRDD. The paper acknowledges that legislation, if designed properly, has the power to help raise the bar of due diligence conduct. However, legislation alone risks falling short on its objectives. The EU has to deploy additional complementary tools including e.g. incentives for companies that go beyond compliance, change of gear in public procurement, an increased level of corporate transparency and stronger stances in trade and investment policies. Lastly, since businesses demonstrated leadership in designing programs and schemes for addressing supply chain challenges, those should continue to be promoted and encouraged.
amfori recently set up a stakeholder Roundtable on HRDD liability, bringing together representatives from civil society and business organisations in an effort to facilitate a better understanding of each other’s perspectives on the topic of liability, which remains one of the most controversial aspects of the current debate around an EU due diligence framework. A kick-off meeting took place in September.
Understanding the linkage between HRDD efforts and the need for effective remedy when abuses occur, amfori started a project to support its members in providing access to remedy to impacted workers and communities in their global supply chains. We organised a kick-off meeting earlier this year and with the support of a dedicated project group, we are setting up the amfori Supply Chain Grievance Mechanism.
For more information
Valentina Bolognesi, Social & Environnemental Policy Advisor