Having decent working conditions is not a given everywhere in the world. The Corona crisis has revealed how inadequate occupational health and safety is in global supply chains.
We consume fruit from South Africa, chocolate from Côte d’Ivoire and coffee from Brazil. We wear clothes made in Asia. Our smartphones are put together from parts that are made all over the world by people who earn their living from their labour.
However, decent working conditions are not a given everywhere in the global supply chains. According to a study by the International Labour Organization (ILO), there are worldwide currently almost 25 million people being exploited in forced labour, and almost one in ten children is a victim of child labour. These figures are appalling. They are unacceptable.
Fair globalisation: the EU must be a role model
That is why the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has used the Presidency of the Council of the European Union to make progress with the issue with its EU partners, so that European companies respect human rights in their supply chains, not only in Europe, but around the world.
The EU must be a global role model
Because it is a community of common values, the EU must be a global role model in order to ensure the protection of the rights of workers in supply chains outside Europe. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs therefore organised a high-level digital conference on 6 and 7 October 2020. The ministerial panel strongly agreed on the need to move forward with due diligence legislation at the national level and that a clear signal from Germany would give the Commission's efforts a boost. Together with Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, and Didier Reynders, the European Commissioner for Justice, Hubertus Heil discussed the specifics of potential EU-level rules designed to enforce respect for human rights and decent work in global supply chains. Federal Minister Heil emphasised how important it was for the Federal Government to help to shape the debate on European supply chain legislation, also in the interest of German companies. Germany must move forward. The best contribution to the discussion would be a finished piece of German legislation. There was also consensus among representatives of European civil society, the social partners and businesses that it was time to act. A common European strategy is needed.
In addition, the EU’s employment ministers agreed on ambitious Council Conclusions concerning human rights and decent work in global supply chains in the EPSCO on 1 December 2020. For the first time, all member states of the European Union expressed approval for binding EU-wide rules for corporate due diligence.
It is very gratifying that all member states demonstrated such strong unity on the issue of supply chains and it is a double mandate for action: First, for the Commission, which must now present an ambitious EU Action Plan on human rights and decent work in global supply chains for the EU, including binding rules for corporate due diligence. Second, for the member states, for example through substantial national action plans on business and human rights.