EU: New business sustainability law risks being undermined by glaring human rights loopholes 

EU: New business sustainability law risks being undermined by glaring human rights loopholes 

The exclusion of banks and financial institutions, as well as waivers for companies that sell high-risk security equipment and surveillance technologies, undermine a proposed new European Union law governing human rights and businesses, Amnesty International said.

The legislation, the EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, for which Member States agreed a Council position today, seeks to compel EU businesses to respect human rights and the environment but looks set to fall far short of meeting this objective.

“Member States want to exclude the use of companies’ products from their obligations to tackle human rights and environmental harm which means that the European companies selling ammunition, batons, and tear gas to governments with poor human rights records would not be required to carry out human rights due diligence. European investors may also be able to continue investing in projects that harm people and the planet,” said Mark Dummett, Head of Business and Human Rights at Amnesty International.

“The Council is also attempting to exclude some fundamental human rights protections from the law, including children’s rights and rights surrounding the elimination of discrimination against women. It’s the states’ duty to protect people from being harmed by businesses, not to cherry pick the rights that companies should respect.”

It’s the states’ duty to protect people from being harmed by businesses, not to cherry pick the rights that companies should respect.

Mark Dummett, Head of Business and Human Rights at Amnesty International

“Beyond making a commitment to addressing corporate-related human rights and environmental harm, EU Member States have a duty to protect human rights. Instead, the Council has chosen to drastically minimize the scope of the law with the result that a significant amount of business operations would remain unchecked for human rights or environmental harm.”

“If the Council gets its way and civil liability for environmental harm is excluded, it is the victims that will be left behind. The Council has failed to align environmental due diligence requirements with international standards, such as the Paris Agreement or existing EU law, despite the urgency of the climate crisis,” said Mark Dummett. “This law should be a game changer – establishing a new set of rules for how companies should operate around the world, and ensuring they respect both people and the planet. Instead, the Council is set to introduce a set of complicated conditions that will determine when companies would actually have to carry out due diligence.”