Joint press release issued by:
Logo: Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development Logo: Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs

Federal Ministers Heil and Müller: "Now the Coalition Agreement will come into play for a supply chain law. The aim is finalisation before the end of this legislative term."

Federal Ministers Müller and Heil during the press conference on the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights (NAP) on July 14, 2020 in Berlin

Press release of 14.07.2020 |

BERLIN – Today the results of the process to monitor the implementation of Germany's National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights were presented to the Interministerial Committee. There are 7,300 larger-scale German companies with more than 500 employees that are required to show how they ensure that human rights and social minimum standards are met in their supply chains. Only 455 of the 2,250 companies contacted in the second survey round returned valid responses. The results show that significantly less than 50 per cent are meeting the requirements on due diligence. Compared to the results of the first company survey in 2019, the share of "compliers" has scarcely changed. This result obviously falls short of the required quota. Federal Minister Gerd Müller and Federal Minister Hubertus Heil commented on the results.

Development Minister Gerd Müller said: "The results of the second company survey are again disappointing. What we need now is a legislative framework as stipulated in the Coalition Agreement in order to ensure that human rights standards are realised along supply chains, eliminating child labour and securing fundamental ecological and social minimum standards. We invite the private sector to participate openly and constructively in this process. Fair trade in global supply chains is the most important key with which to unlock development, create jobs and protect the environment in developing countries. The global economy and our prosperity must not be built on exploiting people and nature, or on child labour. Like a boomerang, that would come back to hit us. Our eco-social economic model can be a blueprint for a global economy."

German Labour Minister Heil stated: "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. 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."

The company survey based on the "National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights" (NAP):

In December 2016, the German government adopted the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights. The plan serves to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in Germany. 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 only 465 of the 3,300 companies that were contacted returned completed questionnaires – although the deadline was extended twice and more companies were invited to participate in the survey. Only around 18 per cent were shown to be in compliance with the requirements.

The second survey has just confirmed those results. That is why the Coalition Agreement will now come into play. It says that, "If an effective and comprehensive review of the NAP in 2020 finds that companies' voluntary commitment is insufficient, we will introduce appropriate legislation at the national level and advocate an EU-wide regulation."

Legislative measures have broad support from business and civil society:

  • More than 60 renowned companies are calling for a supply chain law, including Tchibo, REWE, Nestlé and Alfred Ritter (Ritter Sport).
  • More than 100 civil society organisations think that legislation is needed.
  • A petition calling for a supply chain law for Germany has been signed by 200,000 citizens.
  • The German Council for Sustainable Development recommends that the German government and Germany lead the way in terms of European legislation: the government should thus adopt the cornerstones for supply chain legislation in Germany.

During Germany's EU Presidency, the German government is also advocating an EU action plan to strengthen corporate social responsibility in global supply chains which promotes human rights, social and environmental standards, and transparency, and which takes the experiences and lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic into account.

The EU Commission is also envisaging a legislative initiative for 2021. Germany will definitely need national implementing legislation then.

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