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Global Supply Chains - Global Responsibility

The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is focussing on human rights and decent work in global supply chains during Germany's Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Logo with the Title "Presidency of the EU Council".

On 1 July 2020, Germany assumed the Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) for six months. During this period, the Federal Government intends to work to find a joint, forward-looking way to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic in Europe. The goal is to see Europe emerge from the crisis stronger, fairer and more sustainable.

One important issue is future policy on the international trade in goods. The pandemic has highlighted the fragility of global supply chains. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs will strongly advocate that this debate not be limited to economic considerations but also take into account the protection of human rights. The crisis has also shown that the impact of the virus is particularly hard on workers in the countries where goods are produced. Occupational health and safety measures are often neglected. Millions of people without sufficient access to social security systems have also already lost their jobs due to orders from the industrialised nations being cancelled. A new study by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the UN children's fund UNICEF warns of a massive increase in child labour in this context. These problems are not new. Even before the Corona crisis, precarious employment relationships with below-average pay, excessively long working days and inadequate occupational health and safety could be seen everywhere in countries where goods are produced. There are often devastating accidents at unsafe factories and chemicals are often handled without any protective measures being taken.

European companies must therefore take responsibility for all their employees - including those working in their supply chains. However, there is still no uniform European regulation on the issue. Instead, there are different provisions in the member states: In 2017, France passed a law requiring large domestic companies to document compliance with human rights due diligence obligations and environmental regulations in their foreign operations. In numerous other EU countries, such as the Netherlands, Belgium and Finland, further regulatory measures based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights are being discussed or implemented.

In its coalition agreement of 2018, Germany's Federal Government committed itself to promoting sustainable supply and value chains. It decided to initiate legislation to regulate corporate due diligence in global supply and value chains if the corporate monitoring carried out in the framework of the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights in 2020 shows that less than half of the companies with more than 500 employees have met the requirements. This central question has been monitored since 2018. The final results will be announced this summer.

Given that there is free movement of goods in Europe, however, national provisions are not enough. Parallel with the national NAP process, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs will use Germany's Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which began on 1 July, to promote a binding EU standard of due diligence. In October 2020, the ministry is organising a high-level multi-stakeholder conference on human rights and decent work in global supply chains.

Germany's presidency marks the beginning of the trio presidency of Germany, Portugal and Slovenia: Portugal will assume the presidency in January 2021 and pass the baton to Slovenia six months later. In their trio programme, the trio partners agree on their main topics for the next 18 months in order to work together closely and continuously. The need for action and the need to strengthen corporate responsibility at EU level is highlighted in the trio programme. In April, European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders announced that he intended to present a draft for European supply chain legislation in 2021.

In the run-up to the presidency, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has already initiated a dialogue with representatives of key European industries, associations and trade unions. Initial results have been documented in a companion volume to Germany's presidency. In this thematic reader, you will find interviews, documentary material, academic contributions as well as opinion pieces and debate on the topics the ministry is focussing on during Germany's presidency. There is also a foreword by Federal Minister Hubertus Heil. You can find the online version of the thematic reader here.

In the coming months we will be presenting links to interviews, viewpoints and reports on individual initiatives with more detail.

In the coming months we will be presenting links to interviews, viewpoints and reports on individual initiatives with more detail:

The father of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Professor John G. Ruggie, provides insight into the spirit of these 31 decisive Principles and looks at how they can be implemented effectively at European Union level.

Read the article here

In global supply chains, human rights violations continue to occur. Nina Elomaa, who is responsible for CSR at the Finnish Fazer Group, and Filip Gregor, Chair of the European Coalition for Corporate Justice, both advocate binding EU due diligence standards to improve the situation in producing countries.

Read the article here

Pierre Gattaz, President of BusinessEurope, recognises the responsibility businesses carry for human rights, but sees the risks associated with a binding EU-wide regulation aimed at creating a mandatory due diligence obligation for companies. Instead, he calls for companies to be supported in their endeavours to find solutions involving all actors.

Read the article here

Isabelle Schömann, Confederal Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), advocates for a European directive to regulate companies’ human rights due diligence obligations. In her view, the involvement of trade unions and workers’ representatives and coherence with Europe’s industrial, social, environmental and climate policy will be decisive.

Read the article here

#MySo­cialEu­rope

The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has set the following priorities for Germany's presidency: Strengthening the social dimension of Europe, actively influencing the new ways we work and expanding responsibility for global supply chains. You can find the EU-2020 website of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs here.