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A photo of a TV screen shows French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during televised address on June 22, 2022, in Paris. © Raphael Lafargue/Abaca/Sipa USA(Sipa via AP Images)

Dear President Macron,

We are writing to urge you to ensure that the French government votes in favor of the negotiated EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), and that it persuades other key EU governments to support it.

As one of the few EU countries that has already adopted supply chain due diligence legislation and was in fact the first to do so, France should champion strong EU-wide legislation, and your leadership is critical to ensure a positive outcome.

We regret that, on February 28, following a reproachable and unexpected decision by the German and Italian governments to abstain on the CSDDD, the French ambassador indicated that France would also abstain and that it would vote in favor if the scope of the CSDDD is only applied to very large companies with more than 5,000 employees.

With very limited time left for adoption, and the outcome depending on decisions to be taken at the highest political levels, your direct and urgent intervention is crucial to find a constructive solution. Failure to do so would have serious negative repercussions not only on human rights and the environment, but also on EU citizens’ trust in EU decision-making and on business operations throughout Europe and beyond, in their global value chains.

On the other hand, adoption of the CSDDD would bring numerous positive outcomes, including:

1. Ensuring European companies operating globally and all companies operating within the EU respect human rights and the environment in line with international human rights obligations of EU member states: Human Rights Watch and other civil society organizations have repeatedly documented corporate abuses of labor rights, human rights, and environmental standards in the supply chains of companies. These include child labor, forced labor, land grabs, deforestation, unsafe working conditions, and poverty wages.

2. Addressing legal fragmentation in the EU: In the absence of the CSDDD, EU member states can each adopt their own supply chain due diligence legislation. Such a legally fragmented landscape will not be constructive for companies, including other French companies operating in the EU internal market or outside the EU.

3. Reflecting the wide support the CSDDD enjoys from businesses, business associations, UN agencies, civil society organizations worldwide, and EU citizens: In addition to widespread support from civil society organizations, there has been tremendous engagement with and support for the CSDDD from businesses and business associations. UN organizations, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNICEF, have also supported and called for the CSDDD to be adopted. In a 2021 public poll in nine EU members states, including France, the overwhelming majority of those who participated supported that companies should have legal responsibilities to not get involved in human rights abuses in Europe or abroad.

4. Promoting trust in EU decision-making: The adoption of the CSDDD was a key promise from the Commission at the beginning of its mandate. In December 2023, following trialogue negotiations, the Council, Commission, and EU Parliament adopted a compromise agreement which reflected the Council’s 2022 negotiating position regarding employee threshold. The compromise agreement set more than 500 employees as the threshold for companies to fall under the scope of the directive, with the exception of a narrow list of high-risk sectors for which the threshold was set at above 250 employees. Adopting the milestone CSDDD, after lengthy, thorough, and extensive consultations with key stakeholders and interinstitutional negotiations would promote trust and confidence in EU decision-making.

On the contrary, an abrupt U-turn by France, following the German and Italian governments’ regrettable decisions, would erode all stakeholders’ trust in EU decision-making and would be a blow to the EU’s credibility right ahead of the EU elections, especially since France did not indicate that it would object and re-open the personal scope using employee thresholds during the numerous political level trialogues between 2022 and 2023.

Your direct intervention is necessary to avoid such a disastrous outcome. We urge you to both ensure that your government votes in favour of the current draft, and to reach out to other governments at the highest levels to secure the necessary qualified majority in the Council. France and the EU have the opportunity to be frontrunners on the global stage on much needed and long-overdue legislation to prevent corporate abuses.

Please be in touch if you need any further information.

Best regards,

Tirana Hassan

Executive Director, Human Rights Watch

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