New report reveals how corporations sneakily sabotage a new EU law to hold them accountable
Corporate lobbyists are fighting an announced EU law that seeks to hold companies accountable for human rights abuses and environmental destruction. This is evident from a new report by Brussels-based lobby-watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ) and Friends of the Earth Europe based on dozens of documents obtained through freedom of information requests.
The new research shows how seemingly cooperative corporate lobbies, such as the European Cocoa Association and CSR Europe, try to dilute the law that is crucial for preventing abuses and providing justice to victims by restricting or even banning strong liability provisions and access to courts.
Jill McArdle, Corporate accountability campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said:
“The momentous Shell case in the Netherlands has shown that holding companies accountable in the courts is crucial. Despite two decades of promises to reduce emissions, it took a court case to make Shell comply with its responsibility. While a lot of companies and business groups appear to support new regulations, they are in fact sneakily pushing for a weak law without liability and without access to court for victims.”
The research finds that several big corporate lobbies like BusinessEurope employ outright hostility towards the forthcoming Sustainable Corporate Governance directive.
Olivier Hoedeman, Research and campaign coordinator at Corporate Europe Observatory said:
“Delaying, derailing, obstructing, these are all tactics from the Tobacco industry’s toolbox and often copied by other business sectors to avoid European regulation. These findings should be a wake-up call for EU decision-makers. We’ll make sure to closely monitor to what extent the involvement of commissioner Thierry Breton in this legislative file will mean a setback for more corporate accountability.”
The picture is similar with individual companies that present themselves as ‘sustainability champions’. Privately, however, they are seeking to fatally weaken the law by calling for non-solutions. H&M says due diligence rules need to come with the ‘right incentives’; Mondelez wants companies to enjoy a ‘safe harbour’ from liability for the harm they cause; and Danone wants the EU law to be based on ‘voluntary measures’, which have proven ineffective.
Claudia Saller, Director of the European Coalition for Corporate Justice said:
“Many companies and their corporate lobbies are playing a two-faced game. They appear supportive by calling for an EU law instead of national ones, while at the same time, they are doing everything they can to hit the brakes and make the future EU law as toothless as possible. The example of the German supply chain law shows how industry managed to water down a progressive proposal. The same must not happen at EU level. Too much is at stake.”
A legislative proposal is expected from the European Commission’s Directorate-General Justice in September 2021.