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Virtual conference "Global Supply Chains – Global Responsibility: Human Rights and Decent Work in Global Supply Chains"

During a major virtual conference on 6/7 October, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs put the issue of human rights and decent work in global supply chains prominently on the agenda of Germany's Presidency of the Council of the EU. Federal Labour Minister Hubertus Heil invited European guests from politics, civil society, the social partners and companies to generate concrete momentum for a European action plan on human rights and decent work in global supply chains.

Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil with other conference participants
Co-moderator Katharina Kirschbaum, Federal Minister Dr. Gerd Müller and Federal Minister Hubertus Heil and moderator Tanja Samrotzki (from left to right) discussing with digitally connected guests from all over Europe.
  • Begin 2020.10.06
  • End 2020.10.07

The European way forward: Working conditions and social standards in supply and value chains must be improved for all workers around the world. As a community of values and one of the world’s largest economic areas, these standards must be protected not just in Europe, but also beyond its borders. In concrete terms, it is important to implement the standards in supply chains, create a level playing field, predictability and legal certainty for European companies, facilitate sustainable consumption and strengthen Europe’s social model. That is why it is all the more important for Europe to contribute to a fair and sustainable globalisation and to act as a global pioneer.

 Hubertus Heil noted:

We are the world’s largest internal market and have significant influence on the conditions under which the products on our shelves are made. That is why I am in favour of a European solution, too. However, Europe must not be an excuse not to take action at the national level. We need both fronts: A Germany that is leading by example during its EU Council Presidency and a European understanding.

During the first panel with German federal ministers Müller and Lambrecht there was broad agreement that is was important to lead the way at the national level and that a clear signal from Germany would boost the EU Commission’s initiative.

Together with Nicolas Schmit, the EU Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, and Didier Reynders, the EU Justice Commissioner, Hubertus Heil discussed the concrete potential design of EU level rules intended to enforce human rights and decent work in global supply chains. Commissioner Schmit especially stressed trade union rights were part of human rights and fundamental freedoms. It also became clear that voluntary action was a good thing but not enough. Companies were urged not to stand in the way of these changes since they were in their own long-term interest.

On the second day, technical workshops were held where participants exchanged views on how to achieve a smart mix of regulatory and support measures. An important question in this regard was what the member states and the European Commission could and must contribute. All in all, the conference thus generated concrete momentum for the design of an EU action plan for human rights and decent work in global supply chains in order to strengthen corporate responsibility across the EU.

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Glob­al Sup­ply Chains - Glob­al Re­spon­si­bil­i­ty: Hu­man Rights and De­cent Work in Glob­al Sup­ply Chains 6 Oc­to­ber 2020