European directive on Corporate sustainability due diligence and legal actions in France

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Together with other civil society organisations, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has published a note drawing the first lessons from legal proceedings in France based on the Law on the Duty of Vigilance, in order to inform the European legislative process on corporate sustainability.

26 September 2023. Six years ago, France adopted a pioneering law to make companies accountable for their impact on human rights and the environment: the Law no. 2017-399.

The European institutions are currently negotiating the adoption of a directive imposing similar rules on companies established or operating in Europe. It is therefore necessary to draw the first lessons from the legal proceedings initiated in France in order to inform decision-makers and ensure the adoption of effective EU legislation.

This is the conclusion of an analysis note published by FIDH alongside ActionAid, Friends of the Earth France, Amnesty International France, CCFD Terre Solidaire, Confédération générale du travail, Collectif éthique sur l’étiquette, Notre affaire à tous, Oxfam France, Sherpa and the Forum Citoyen pour la RSE.

The scope of the duty of vigilance proposed at the EU level is narrower than in French law, so that breaches currently submitted to examination by French courts would be difficult to prosecute in other Member States. This would be the case for various aspects of the EDF "Mexico", Yves Rocher, Total "Climate", Total "Uganda", BNP Paribas "Climate" and Casino cases.

The authors organisations stress that it is essential for the EU Due Diligence Directive to fix these shortcomings, in addition to enshrining an explicit reversal of the burden of proof to remedy the notorious inequality of arms suffered by victims, affected populations and representative organisations in the face of big multinational corporations.

The note details useful points worthy of attention and provides practical recommendations for EU decision-making bodies, so that the Directive can effectively protect human and environmental rights.

Read the note in English here.

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