Yesterday, the European Parliament adopted its legislative own-initiative report by MEP Lara Wolters on corporate due diligence and corporate accountability.
The report, adopted with a large majority, sends a strong signal of the Parliament’s support for the introduction of mandatory human rights due diligence by the European Commission. It also highlights the key elements the European Parliament expects in the upcoming legislation.
Importantly, this includes recognizing specifically the importance of the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining and the need for involvement of trade unions and workers’ representatives, at national, EU and global levels, in the establishment and implementation of due diligence strategies.
The strong show of support adds pressure behind the momentum for effective mandatory human rights due diligence legislation at the EU. Progress on this is long overdue. We have seen time and time again the failures of voluntary corporate responsibility measures to protect human rights around the world.
Mandatory human rights due diligence is especially needed to address the crisis in respect for the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining around the world. We have seen European companies across the service sectors – from health care giant Fresenius to contact centre behemoth Teleperformance – undermining these fundamental rights.
It is critical that the initiative from the Commission builds upon this signal from the Parliament to meet these human rights needs. During the Commission’s public consultation, we saw an outpouring of support from services unions across Europe and around the world, raising clear examples that highlight the need for due diligence.
From this, we see the dire need for the EU initiative to cover all business enterprises regardless of their legal forms – from multinationals to SMEs, public sector organisations, and bodies registered as non-profit associations such as sporting bodies – that operate in the EU.
We highlight in particular the need for the initiative to:
- Emphasise the rights to collective bargaining and freedom of association as fundamental and enabling rights, that allow workers to protect their human rights more widely. To measure company progress on this, reporting requirements should show the outcome of company due diligence on these fundamental rights by mandating reporting on percentage of workers covered by collective bargaining agreements.
- Require companies to meaningfully involve trade unions at the local, national, European and global levels throughout the entirety of the due diligence process – including the right to negotiate the process, and be meaningfully involved in risk mapping and steps to mitigate these risks.
- Ensure that it is integrated into core business strategies, through having a specific board member who should be responsible for the ongoing oversight of the design and implementation of the company’s human rights due diligence, the oversight of the supervisory board, and that the company’s due diligence is on the agenda at company Annual General Meetings.