After an eight-month delay, the Commission has finally published its proposal on due diligence obligations for businesses aimed at tackling human rights and environmental abuses.

The much-anticipated Directive is a far cry from the degree of scrutiny of supply chains demanded by the European Parliament, civil society and victims of corporate abuse.

The rules are expected to apply only to 1% of EU businesses, rendering them ineffectual. The Commission has replaced concrete due diligence obligations with a mere contractual exercise; allowing companies to escape civil liability for human rights violations in their value chains by simply introducing generic clauses in their contracts with direct suppliers.

Today’s announcement, therefore, represents a victory for corporate lobbies who succeeded in stripping the proposal of its teeth. Pro-business Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, had been appointed as co-lead for the file. Subsequently, business lobbies close to Breton helped delay the proposal’s publication for several months following intense lobbying of the Regulatory Scrutiny Committee.

The latter, a five-person team that conducts ‘quality control’, blocked the proposal twice by ruling unfavourably towards the impact assessment, providing only vague justifications that mirror the talking points of business associations.

“The Commission’s proposal on corporate due diligence for human rights and environmental crimes is much less ambitious than what the European Parliament had demanded last year,” said Manon Aubry, Co-President of The Left in the European Parliament.

“This could have been a historic moment in the fight against corporate impunity but the Commission chose to follow  ‘business as usual’ rather than to strengthen human rights and environmental protection.“

“Once again the Commission has bowed down to the lobbies and their corporate interests. The European Parliament must now act to ensure that the European Union lives up to its ambition and to the urgency of tackling corporate abuses,” Aubry concluded.

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Read Manon Aubry’s Brussels Times opinion article from Monday on the Commission’s due diligence proposal.

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