The FDP’s decision not to support the new laws could now cause the German government to abstain from voting in favour of its introduction, which Human Rights Watch says could cause other countries to reconsider or withdraw their support.

Last December, the EU Parliament and council negotiators informally agreed on new legislation for corporate sustainability due diligence that will apply to all big companies as well as smaller companies deemed to be in high-risk sectors, such as the textile and apparel sector.

Once formally approved, the legislation will require companies to mitigate their negative impact on human rights and the environment, including child labour, slavery, labour exploitation, pollution, deforestation, excessive water consumption or damage to ecosystems.

The agreed draft law still requires formal approval by the Legal Affairs Committee and the European Parliament as a whole, as well as by the Council (EU governments) before it can become enforced.

Writing in the EU Observer, Human Rights Watch’s associate director, children’s rights division, Juliane Kippenberg said: “A German abstention during the vote on the EU supply chains law would send a terrible political message from the country that just adopted its own supply chain law. And it would jeopardise Germany’s credibility—after all, German political leaders, including from the FDP, have previously agreed that the EU supply chain law should be adopted, have actively engaged in negotiations, and shaped the most recent draft.”

Kippenberg argued that, while the proposed law has gaps, it will still hold companies to account and will put pressure on organisations to respect human rights.

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She added: “Business and human rights should not be seen as a contradiction. In our modern, globalised world, rules on supply chain due diligence are an important tool to ensure that companies do not cause or contribute to abuses, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Germany should support the EU supply chains law.”

Human Rights Watch has called on Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz to support the law, despite the FDP’s objections, as the country’s larger coalition parties have expressed their support for the legislation.