Finally an agreement on the CSDDD

It’s been an exciting few weeks. Every day seemed to bring a new developments. Will the Member States be able to reach a compromise on a new law that will make it a legal requirement to respect human rights?

For 12 years I have been helping companies to comply with human rights. These companies did this voluntarily. It was high time to create a level playing field and make human rights due diligence mandatory for all larger European companies.  But the resistance and lobbying turned out to be strong. The compromises that have been made to get it through are therefore enormous. I have mixed feelings about it. Especially about the fact that the high risk sectors have been taken out. The garment industry, the food industry, the mining, known for many human rights violations. As they will not fall under the CSDDD, companies already working to mitigate risks, will not have a level playing field, as all smaller companies under 1000 employees are out of scope.

The law would impose a disproportionate burden on companies, a ‘massive burden’, as the German government put it.

It is true that companies, which have ignored the fact that there may be many human rights violations in their supply chains in recent years, have a lot of work to do. 13 years after the UN issued authoritative guidelines on the role of business in human rights (the UNGP), a substantial number of companies have done little or nothing about them. That is why legislation seems necessary.

It is possible

I know from experience that it is possible to do Human Rights Due Diligence, as required by this law. Many companies already have gained experience with this. It’s complex, yes that’s right. Many companies think that they now have to guarantee that human rights violations do not occur anywhere in their supply chains. Impossible, of course, because many companies have set up global and intransparent value chains. You don’t have to guarantee this, but you do have to make an effort to do something about it. You also have to show that you do. Is that too much to ask?

It takes time and patience

And that’s what companies will get when this law is passed. Results are focused on the long term. Companies can take their time and you can set priorities. Fortunately, it can also be very fulfilling, interesting, and important work for companies. The Dutch Rutger Bregman recently called on us to spend your time well and to have moral ambition. This is a wonderful way to make good use of your time.

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