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EU's Provisional Agreement Against Forced Labor

Flags of the European Union fluttering in front of the EU Commission building.

A significant stride forward has emerged from the European Union. A landmark provisional agreement, bridging the European Council and Parliament, aims to outlaw products crafted through forced labor from the EU market. This agreement, a beacon of legislative activism, targets to dismantle the nefarious trade practices that exploit individuals.

At the heart of this legislative endeavor lies a stringent prohibition against the marketing and exportation of any merchandise fabricated via forced labor. Amendments to the initial proposal have clarified the roles of the European Commission and national competent authorities in investigating and resolving potential infringements.

A pivotal component of the proposed regulation is the establishment of a database by the Commission. This tool, laden with verifiable insights into forced labor risks, is poised to enhance the investigatory efficiency of both the Commission and national authorities. Through this database, stakeholders will gain access to a wealth of information, including international reports, thus facilitating a more informed enforcement of the regulation.

The methodology adopted for assessing violations hinges on a risk-based approach. Criteria such as the magnitude and severity of the forced labor, the product's market presence, and the involvement of critical parts made under duress in the final product guide this assessment. This structured framework aims to ensure a comprehensive evaluation of potential violations.

Guidelines issued by the Commission will serve as a navigational aid for economic operators and authorities, delineating compliance requirements and remediation strategies. Special provisions are envisaged for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises, acknowledging the unique challenges they face.

The delineation of investigatory leadership forms another cornerstone of the agreement. The Commission will spearhead investigations beyond EU borders, while national authorities will take charge within member states.

A collaborative ethos underpins this arrangement, with authorities mandated to share pertinent findings across borders, fostering a unified response to suspected forced labor instances.

The resolution process culminates in a final decision by the investigating authority, with national decisions gaining pan-European applicability through mutual recognition. An interesting nuance allows for the temporary withholding of products deemed critical, provided operators can later prove the absence of forced labor in their supply chains.

Furthermore, the agreement introduces a nuanced approach towards products partially made with forced labor. In such cases, only the tainted components are targeted for disposal, sparing the rest of the product. This provision underlines a pragmatic balance between regulatory rigor and economic pragmatism.

As the provisional agreement now awaits formal adoption, its implications extend far beyond the legislative chambers of the EU. With an estimated 27.6 million individuals ensnared in forced labor worldwide, this regulation represents a critical step towards dismantling an exploitative system that transcends borders and industries.

It encapsulates a collective commitment to purging the shadow of coercion from global supply chains, setting a precedent for ethical trade practices.

In doing so, the EU not only fortifies its internal market against the scourge of forced labor but also signals a broader call to action for the international community.


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