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EU Parliament Mandates Strict Human Rights and Environmental Due Diligence Law for Corporations

Legislators in session, advancing human rights and environmental due diligence laws for corporate accountability.

In a significant legislative move, on Wednesday, the European Parliament adopted a directive that imposes rigorous standards for human rights and environmental due diligence on large corporations. This initiative is designed to enhance corporate accountability and sustainability across Europe.



Defining Environmental and Human Rights Due Diligence


Environmental and human rights due diligence involves systematic efforts by companies to assess, address, and mitigate their impacts on human rights and the environment. Key issues include preventing labor exploitation, child labor, and environmental degradation, and ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources.



Comprehensive Overview of the Directive


The directive mandates EU and non-EU companies, including parent companies and entities with significant operational footprints, to adhere strictly to these due diligence requirements.


It applies to:


  • Companies with over 1000 employees and a global turnover exceeding 450 million euros.


  • Entities with franchising or licensing agreements in the EU, maintaining a common corporate identity with a worldwide turnover above 80 million euros, and at least 22.5 million euros generated from royalties.



Legislative Details and Voting Outcome


The directive was approved by the European Parliament with a robust majority, garnering 374 votes in favor, against 235, with 19 abstentions. This strong endorsement underscores the commitment of the EU to enforce responsible business practices that respect human rights and protect the environment.



Key Provisions and Implementation Strategy


1.Transition Plans: Companies are required to develop transition plans aligned with the 1.5°C global warming limit outlined in the Paris Agreement.


2. Liability and Penalties: Non-compliant firms face penalties including fines up to 5% of their net worldwide turnover. They must also compensate any parties harmed by their failure to meet due diligence standards.


3. Phased Application:


  • From 2027: Targets companies with over 5000 employees and annual turnover above 1500 million euros.

  • From 2028: Includes firms with over 3000 employees and 900 million euros in turnover.

  • From 2029: Covers all remaining companies within the directive’s scope.



Supervisory Framework


The establishment of the European Network of Supervisory Authorities will help enhance cooperation and exchange best practices across member states. Each country must provide accessible online resources detailing due diligence obligations and establish authoritative bodies to enforce these regulations.



Voices of Change - Stakeholder Reactions to the Directive


In the wake of the European Parliament's decision, MEP Lara Wolters expressed the sentiment of many involved in the legislative process:

"Today’s vote is a milestone for responsible business conduct and a considerable step towards ending the exploitation of people and the planet by cowboy companies. This law is a hard-fought compromise and the result of many years of tough negotiations."

Her statement encapsulates the progressive triumph and the collaborative effort behind this historic legislation.



Historical Context and Legislative Journey


The directive’s passage marks a critical advancement in EU regulatory efforts targeting corporate responsibility. Despite initial resistance due to concerns about potential burdens on businesses, adjustments were made to focus primarily on larger corporations, leading to its successful adoption.



Impact of New EU Directive on Corporate Governance


The European Parliament's approval of the human rights and environmental due diligence directive represents a pivotal moment in EU corporate governance. This legislation lays down a robust framework for businesses to integrate sustainable practices and ethical considerations into their core operations.



Key Takeaway


With the new directive, the EU reaffirms its leadership in promoting sustainable development and corporate responsibility. The directive sets a precedent for global business practices, aiming to ensure that companies operate in a manner that is both ethically sound and environmentally sustainable.


 

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