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45 businesses request a national, legal framework for corporate due diligence

Following the initiative taken by chocolatier Tony’s Chocolonely in the Netherlands, 45 companies operating in Belgium have signed a letter to the new government calling for a national, legal framework for corporate due diligence on the topic of human rights and the environment.

Ben & Jerry’s, Kalani, Galler Chocolate, JBC, Java, Neckerman, Clarysse, Mayerline, The Cotton Group – B&C and 36 other companies have already signed the letter. They call on other companies to join them.

The signatories of the letter emphasize that “a growing number of Belgian companies are engaged in playing a positive role in society, and to contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (Agenda 2030).” Since 2016, a number of them have signed the Belgian SDG Charter and are committed to working together with other parties such as NGOs and governments in order to realize the SDGs.

However, given the magnitude and complexity of the challenges, “individual, voluntary initiatives alone are not enough to apply an economic model that respects both people and planet.” The companies signing the letter are therefore also in favor of “a legal framework as part of a well-considered mix of corporate social responsibility measures.”

“Actively identifying, preventing, and fighting against environmental and human rights violations in international chains brings with it costs and investments. Legislation also provides the right incentives, rewards achievements, and creates fair competition between companies.”

The signatories further note that “a number of (neighboring) countries have already passed laws or are currently in the process of drafting legislation. Through this national legislation, these countries are opposing free-riders and unfair competition, and are creating a fair playing field to fight human rights violations and environmental damage within production chains.”

Legislation in support of the European initiative

On April 29, 2020, the European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders announced that the European Union plans to prepare a draft legislative proposal by 2021 for mandatory due diligence in the areas of human rights and the environment.

With ambitious national legislation, Belgium can underline the importance of this European initiative and, as a front-runner, help shape the European approach. A Belgian law also gives Belgian companies the right incentive, in anticipation of the implementation of EU regulations, to ready their business operations and in doing so gain a head start in a European market where policy makers, consumers, and investors are raising expectations when it comes to corporate social responsibility.”

The business initiative is fully in line with the agreement of the federal majority, which states that: “The Government is committed to participating actively and constructively in the negotiations on the future United Nations Convention on Business and Human Rights. The Government will play a leading role in the development of a European legislative framework on the duty of care. Wherever possible, a national support framework will be put in place to this end”.

The letter’s signatories remind policymakers that “doing business internationally with respect for human rights and the environment must be the norm and that they set that standard with legislation as part of well thought-through policy.”

Interested in finding out more? Or would your company like to sign the letter? Then get in touch via duediligence.bel(at)gmail.com.

Photo: drying of organic and fair trade cotton © Kalani

Mandatory due diligence of companies

Call for national legal framework
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