Last month EU member states agreed to weaken the text of the draft EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, a law that has the potential to end appalling corporate human rights and environmental abuses including child labour, land grabs, deforestation and oil spills.
However, the directive has still yet to be finalised, and with the European Parliament making key decisions on the directive this month, Irish MEPs will have the opportunity to address the profound weaknesses in the draft law. Garry Walsh, Policy and Advocacy Advisor with Trócaire, said: “The monumental power imbalance between huge corporations and local communities needs to be addressed urgently. When communities try to seek justice, they are invariably in a David and Goliath situation.”
He added: “These new rules for business could be a game changer to prevent corporations from exploiting people and damaging the environment. A strong EU directive could clean up corporate value chains, prevent abuses from happening, and allow victims of harm to take companies to court in Europe.”
Mr Walsh said the watered-down text agreed by EU member states in December at the Council of the EU shields companies producing pesticides, weapons or surveillance technology from scrutiny for the harms their products and services create.
In addition, the text leaves the inclusion of the financial sector in the legislation at the discretion of each member state. “There are serious weaknesses in the draft directive. As it stands it only applies to 1% of EU businesses, contains some significant loopholes and leaves victims of corporate harm still struggling to seek justice. Now it is over to our MEPs to raise the bar of this legislation even higher, to prevent mass carbon emissions by investment funds, and to clean up our act across the globe.” “A broader range of business activity needs to be covered, as well as a greater focus on gender. This is incredibly disappointing for the communities who are on the frontlines of corporate exploitation.”
Mr Walsh said the reality is countries where Trócaire works, including Honduras, Palestine and Myanmar, are impacted by mining activities, rainforests are being cut down, violent forced evictions, land grabs, brutal physical attacks and even murder.
“These communities have been waiting decades for stronger protections and it is unacceptable that EU countries would work to weaken protections.”
While the Council of the EU and the European Commission now have agreed positions on this directive, the European Parliament has yet to finalise its own position. Currently nine committees in the European Parliament are developing positions on the Commission’s draft Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, with JURI (Legal Affairs) in the lead.
According to Trócaire Irish MEPs Barry Andrews and Deirdre Clune play key roles for negotiations on this directive as rapporteurs in the trade committee (INTA) and the consumer protection committee (IMCO). Committees will be negotiating amendments from 9th of January, with crucial votes happening in most committees in the last week of January. The final compromise agreement will likely be then voted in the legal affairs (JURI) committee in March, with a last vote in plenary in the Parliament by all MEPs likely in May. This will form the European Parliament’s negotiating position for hammering out a final deal on the Directive in three-way negotiations between the Parliament, EU Member States in the Council and the European Commission, likely to take place in the Summer.