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Press release: 10 March 2021
Environmental lawyers have hailed an ‘unambiguous’ vote in the European Parliament today, confirming the clear need for a new law to prevent human rights abuses and environmental destruction stemming from the business activities of companies operating in the EU.
With a large majority of 504 in favour, 79 against and 112 abstentions, the Parliament supported recommendations from the JURI Committee for new binding requirements on corporate due diligence and corporate accountability.
The adopted report by the JURI Committee’s Lara Wolters stresses that companies must develop a due diligence strategy in order to prevent human rights abuses and environmental harm.
Clotilde Henriot, Trade Lead at ClientEarth, said:
“Today’s vote is unambiguous: mandatory requirements are needed to compel companies to make sure their business activities are not linked to environmental harm and human rights violations. It’s no longer feasible to rely on goodwill.”
The report will now inform a legislative proposal, expected to be tabled in June by the European Commission, which should include binding due diligence requirements for businesses, and a framework for victims to hold companies liable if harms occurs.
This upcoming law will be the first time that corporate due diligence is made mandatory across the EU – and will ensure that companies have transparent, responsible and sustainable practices at every step in their business.
“The EU’s massive environmental footprint has had serious consequences for the environment, and on people both at home and abroad,” Henriot added.
“New legislation holding companies to account for their business impacts will help prevent these consequences and means that companies can be taken to court if harm occurs.”
Lawyers stress that environmental and human rights considerations present significant material risks for all businesses, including legal and reputational ones. Sustainable supply chains provide a competitive advantage, and companies that work quickly to adopt strong due diligence measures are more likely to be resilient in the long term.
“Now, it is crucial that the recommendations in this report are used to meaningfully inform the upcoming law,” Henriot said. “The EU cannot miss this opportunity for an ambitious proposal to show that the bloc is taking its global environmental leadership seriously.”
ClientEarth is a charity that uses the power of the law to protect people and the planet. We are international lawyers finding practical solutions for the world’s biggest environmental challenges. We are fighting climate change, protecting oceans and wildlife, making forest governance stronger, greening energy, making business more responsible and pushing for government transparency. We believe the law is a tool for positive change. From our offices in London, Brussels, Warsaw, Berlin and Beijing, we work on laws throughout their lifetime, from the earliest stages to implementation. And when those laws are broken, we go to court to enforce them.