The European Outdoor Group (EOG) is lending its support to action taken in Germany to introduce a law that would force companies to ensure human rights and social minimum standards are met in their supply chains – and hopes the legislation covered in the act will become adopted throughout Europe in due course.

In a statement today (10 August), EOG general secretary Arne Strate says the requirements outlined in the draft Supply Chain Act are closely aligned with the organisation's own principles and approach to responsibility.

"As an industry association, we have always focused on helping our members – and the wider outdoor sector – to prepare for and indeed embrace change. In fact, we have encouraged organisations to proactively seek change that positively impacts areas such as responsible business practices, sustainability and conservation. This is a better strategy than waiting for change to be imposed," Strate says. "It is also our view, and that of our membership, that it is fundamentally the right course of action to take.

"On every level, associations that try to slow down change or focus mainly on protecting their members from it, are putting them in a worse longer-term position when legislation starts to take effect. In this context, and in terms of sustainability and responsibility, it is very encouraging that a major industrial nation such as Germany is taking the lead on this topic, which should be a catalyst for broader movement in both debate and action."

Strate says efforts to delay or block the act will not only be seeking to prevent an improvement in environmental protections and the human rights circumstances for many workers in the supply chain but will "also be sending a message to businesses that those issues can be ignored and will go away.

"That is wrong," she adds. "It is the EOG's view that proactively taking responsibility and making positive change is the correct approach, and for this reason, we support the progress of the Supply Chain Act in Germany. Furthermore, we hope that the legislation covered in the act will become adopted throughout Europe in due course."

The law would force companies to ensure human rights and social minimum standards are met in their supply chains.

Last month, Federal Ministers Gerd Muller and Hubertus Heil said companies were failing to be accountable for their human rights responsibilities under a voluntary approach.

The comments followed the presentation to the Interministerial Committee of results of a process to monitor the implementation of Germany's National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights, which launched in 2016. The plan serves to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (NAP) in the country.

The German government initially counted on companies joining the effort voluntarily, but it also arranged to evaluate the success of this voluntary approach.

In the first round of monitoring, 465 of the 3,300 companies that were contacted returned completed questionnaires, with about 18% shown to be in compliance with the requirements. In the second round, 455 of the 2,250 contacted returned valid responses, with significantly less than 50% meeting requirements on due diligence.

"There is no avoiding our human rights responsibilities. The results of our survey show that a voluntary approach is not enough. We need national legislation in order to also ensure fair competition," Heil said in a statement at the time. "The supply chain law will only require companies to do what is manageable and reasonable. And it will create legal and operational certainty for companies."

Textil+Mode, also known as The Association of the German Textile and Fashion Industry, however, criticised the move to pass a supply chain law adding it will weaken small and medium-sized enterprises in their competitiveness.

Dr Uwe Mazura, general manager of the Association, said last month the decision was a "slap in the face of the German economy".