In a blow to efforts to fight corporate impunity, the much-anticipated European directive on due diligence has faltered at the final hurdle, as member states failed to back the measures in a secret vote today.

“Today, member states are complicit in the impunity of criminal multinationals. France bears a singular responsibility. Emmanuel Macron claimed to be the European champion of due diligence, but now he refuses to support this directive and is calling for 98% of large European companies to be exempt from it! I will continue to the bitter end my fight begun 5 years ago to defend workers’ rights and the environment in the face of the crimes of Total, SheIn and co” said Co-Chair of The Left Manon Aubry (La France Insoumise, France).

The directive had been in the pipeline for years following demands from trade unions and civil society to put an end to the impunity of multinationals that violate human rights and damage the environment. A provisional deal had been reached in trilogue last December, marking a decisive step towards respect for the environment and human rights. But after several delays on the vote at COREPER, today’s vote casts doubt on the whole process.

This European directive was set to allow for the imposition of sanctions against multinationals, their subcontractors and suppliers who fail to respect human rights and the environment. It was also supposed to enable the victims of this system to seek redress and justice. In the textiles industry, working conditions are disgraceful, in particular because of fast fashion and its business model. The environmental and social impact of these companies is an aberration. 

Today, member states did not rise to the challenge. Several member states, like Nordic and Baltic countries, mistakenly believe that this directive will create too heavy an administrative burden and France’s last-minute demand for changes to the scope of the directive, and to exclude 98% of the companies concerned were an excessive challenge to the compromise agreement.

 

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