With this new decision to ban products such as cocoa, coffee and soya resulting from deforestation and the violation of human rights, particularly in Africa, the duty of vigilance is🇧🇷imposes more and more and spreads to everyone🇧🇷Europe and beyond🇧🇷 VS’that’s good news for responsible businesses of all sizes!
Norway and Germany have already adopted specific laws, the Netherlands and Belgium are in the process of legislative work and the European directive will be discussed in Parliament in the first half of 2023. This European harmonization is urgent to avoid national disparities. Differential limits and scope of application, as well as sanctions, are indeed risk factors.
By requiring companies with more than 5,000 employees to develop and implement a vigilance plan to prevent and manage serious social, health and safety and environmental risks related to their activities and to publicly report the results, France has committed. This duty of vigilance has profoundly changed practices on the African continent as well. The requirements go down to the level of suppliers whose contracts also oblige them to exercise due diligence towards their own suppliers…
Of course, nothing is perfect and there is still a lot to be done. The ongoing proceedings in France show this. Some stakeholders took advantage of the solutions offered. Notices, subpoenas, all accompanied, of course, by media and social media campaigns flourished. The companies currently targeted are, in a way, the unfortunate legal guinea pigs of this legal change.
However, this search for jurisprudence has the merit of showing that the risks of legal responsibility are serious. These actions illustrate how demanding this duty of vigilance is and its forthcoming extension to the 27 EU Member States could change practices in sectors exposed to social and environmental risks. Targeting 13,000 large European companies and 4,000 from third countries, it is indirectly its entire ecosystem of SMEs as far away as Africa that it is a matter of embarking on to ensure responsible sectors. Even if we cannot exclude that companies, in particular Asian ones, organize themselves to escape the application thresholds, this European extension is in fact good news for two reasons.
The paths taken over the last four years by French companies and their suppliers are an asset. Especially since the Directive takes up from the Covenant Law of 2019 the fact that any French company must be ” gandred in your heartrbe social, taking into account the social and environmental issues of its activity “. This article 1833-2 of the Civil Code provided for nothing less than the exercise of the duty of vigilance for any management decision.
The second good news is that, if French companies suffer the first rounds of justice today, tomorrow it will be the turn of their disloyal competitors to market goods and services in Europe, resulting from forced labor, deforestation or contribution to climate change. By imposing a duty of care on companies established outside Europe, the EU is finally giving itself leverage to fight against social and environmental dumping from competitors on which it has no equivalent obligation. Hopefully the NGOs mobilized today will be able to exert the same pressure on them!
Why are European and African SMEs and SMEs arguably the ones with the most to gain? Because, anticipating and implementing their own surveillance strategy in a concerted way, they become the essential links in new value chains that are closer and more responsible, at a time when priority is given to the industrialization of Africa. Large European contractors and their partners on the continent are interested in sharing the demand and excellence of surveillance, with the support of financial institutions!
Some players also boldly took the lead, such as CAMIF, which gave up offering products that are not manufactured in Europe on its e-commerce platform. Its manager assumes both the loss of 5% of turnover in the short term and the positive impact on its ecosystem of French and European manufacturers. African soon? Some visionary companies, in Morocco, in Ivory Coast, on the continent have set to work for this.
Because at a time when Europe intends to renew its partnership with Africa, the duty of vigilance is also a way of sealing a pact of confidence, a “fair new deal” between our economies. It is a lever to develop more local value chains on the continent, for the benefit of all parties, the environment, biodiversity and young generations, on both shores of the Mediterranean.
In short, surveillance is an ally of all economic, financial and political actors who want to be useful to society and sustainable development! Companies on both continents must methodically anticipate to take advantage of the opportunities that arise, especially those that have adopted a purpose, the condition of a company with a mission or an impact strategy.