Finally, a Human Rights and Business Directive

Historic corporate responsibility despite regrettable weakening

The decision taken by European capitals on March 15, 2024 to approve the Belgian President’s political agreement on the European Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence (CSDDD) represents a significant step forward in the protection of human rights, the climate and the environment from corporate harm. This political agreement is a landmark decision in favor of corporate regulation that respects the planet and the rights of people affected by corporate activities, including women, children and indigenous communities, and that finally provides access to justice for victims of human rights violations.

Yes to human rights, but devastating last-minute concessions

While the approval by the EU Council is an important step towards the formal adoption of the Directive, last-minute changes due to political maneuvering by several Member States and business lobbies have further weakened a political agreement reached in the trialogue in December, which already fell short of international standards. It is disappointing that the Due Diligence Directive will now only apply to around 0.05% of EU companies that generally pose risks to the environment and human rights. The compromise adopted falls short of the ambition of the original trilogue agreement due to last-minute maneuvering by certain Member States who have once again failed those they are supposed to protect from corporate harm.

After a stalemate in EU capitals, the Belgian President finally managed to secure a compromise between Member States, resulting in the political approval of the Duty of Vigilance Directive. This was achieved at the cost of damaging cuts to the supposed political agreement reached with the Parliament last December. The text adopted by the Council and the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee still needs to be approved by all MEPs in April 2024.

The Duty of Vigilance Initiative and numerous civil society actors had called on the Luxembourg government to live up to its human rights, climate and environmental commitments and support the directive by saying a clear YES to the European Directive on Corporate Sustainability Duty of Vigilance, as a NO vote or abstention would have been tantamount to a massive loss of credibility. The government of Luxembourg, a current member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, finally voted in favor of the directive in this historic decision.

Press release by the “Initiative pour un devoir de vigilance”, March 20, 2024