The legislation should hold such companies legally accountable and provide access to justice for victims, the letter states

The legislation should hold such companies legally accountable and provide access to justice for victims, the letter states

A group of more than 80 global organisations and trade unions are calling for effective EU legislation that would require companies to identify, prevent and mitigate human rights abuses in their domestic and international supply chains.

In an open letter to the European Commission, they say the legislation should hold companies legally accountable and provide access to justice for victims. Signatories include Clean Clothes Campaign, Anti-Slavery International, IndustriAll, and the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers' Federation (BGIWF).

"The reliance on a voluntary approach to promote business respect for human rights and the environment has proven insufficient and does not prevent violations of human rights and environmental damages," the letter notes. "New binding EU legislation that increases protection for individuals and communities, workers and their representatives, human rights defenders, and the environment is needed.

"It will provide clarity on what the minimum standard for responsible business conduct means in practice and stimulate the shift we need towards a more sustainable and fair level playing field."

The NGOs and trade unions say they want companies and investors to be required to carry out human rights and environmental due diligence – that is, to identify, assess, stop, prevent and mitigate the risks and violations to all human rights, including workers and trade union rights, and the environment posed by their own activities, subsidiaries, investee entities, and business relationships, within and outside the EU.

Rights holders, in particular workers, their unions and affected communities should be involved in the negotiation and implementation of due diligence plans, they add. "If a company fails to respect its obligations and abuses do occur, avenues must be available to hold it to account in court and for victims of abuses to receive justice and remedy."

The letter concludes: "As the world's largest economy, founded on the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, with various human rights and environmental policy goals, it's vital that the EU takes the lead in and develops a clear and comprehensive economy-wide legislation."