European Commission Passes Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence and Human Rights Law

By: D’Andre Gordon 

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

BRUSSELS, Belgium – On February 23, 2022, the European Commission adopted a proposal to enact new supply chain legislation, known as the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), which aims to increase “corporate sustainability due diligence,” reduce the environmental impact of corporate practices, and advance human rights.

A person holding a sign with a black background with white-colored lettering that reads “Justice is everybody’s business.” | Photo courtesy of Amnesty International.

The EU’s recent approval of the CSDDD is more than a legislative change; it’s a clarion call for economic systems worldwide to reckon with the legacies of exploitation embedded within them. This act, which challenges companies to transparently audit their supply chains for human rights abuses and environmental damage, introduces an ethical dimension to global commerce that holds corporations accountable beyond profit margins.

The directive marks a significant step in redressing the deep-seated imbalances created by a history of colonial practices, where the pursuit of profit too often trampled on the rights of native populations and the natural environment. However, it is crucial to address that the journey toward this legislative milestone was marked by critical discourses reflecting the delicate interplay between ambition and attainability.

Reports from ESG Today and Euronews reveal that the initial robust provisions of the CSDDD were met with political reservations, leading to a version that some consider being watered down. The adoption of the directive, though successful, emerged with raised thresholds for company inclusion and excised requirements that could have extended its reach significantly. Such compromises hint at the complexities and constraints intrinsic to policymaking within diverse political landscapes.

Despite these modifications, the legislative process has been met with measured optimism by watchdogs and social organizations, including Amnesty International, which sees the CSDDD as a vital first step in the right direction. It is an acknowledgment of the necessity for corporate accountability, but also a recognition of the directive’s present limitations. Their perspective serves as a reminder that the pursuit of justice and corporate responsibility is an evolving endeavor, requiring laws like the CSDDD to be living documents, amenable to future enhancements that might expand their scope and fortify their impact.

Other groups are making similar efforts. In Canada, Indigenous communities are engaging in a parallel, yet distinctive struggle, advocating for an economy that supports not just life, but a way of life reflecting their values. Researchers like Solen Roth have detailed the efforts of Northwest Coast artists in reclaiming the commodification of their cultural heritage. Their journey towards a market model that is both less colonial and more indigenous – emphasizing fair distribution and community benefit – mirrors the ethos behind the EU’s new directive.

For further information, please see:

Amnesty International – EU: New European business human rights law passes crucial vote – 15 Mar. 2024

DW – EU countries back new human rights supply chain law – 15 Mar. 2024

Euronews – EU Policy: Governments support stripped-down corporate due diligence law – 15 Mar. 2024

ESG Today – Watered-down Supply Chain Sustainability Due Diligence Law Passes First Hurdle in EU Parliament – 19 Mar. 2024

European Commission Database – Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence – European Commission – 23 Feb. 2022

University of Nebraska Press – Can Capitalism Be Decolonized? Recentering Indigenous Peoples Values and Ways of Life in the Canadian Art Market – 17 Mar. 2024

Author: Sydney Krause