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Press Release, 10 September 2019

Tackling unscrupulous profit: broad civil society alliance calls for supply chain law

Berlin, 10 September 2019 The Federal Government should impose legal obligations on German companies to uphold human rights and environmental standards globally, said a broad alliance of over 50 civil society organizations on the seventh anniversary of the devastating fire that engulfed the Ali Enterprises textile factory in Pakistan.

The “Initiative Lieferkettengesetz” [the Supply Chain Law Initiative] sees trade unions join forces with environmental, human rights and development organizations as well as fair trade representatives and church-based initiatives.

In its petition, the alliance urges German Chancellor Angela Merkel to introduce a supply chain law by 2020. An event was also staged in front of the Reichstag to remember those who have lost their lives in the many accidents that have taken place at factories supplying German companies.

“Time and again, we hear reports of burning factories, exploitative child labor and devastated rainforests. It all goes to show that German companies are not going to voluntarily comply with their obligations. The German government must, at long last, establish a legal framework to put a stop to companies tolerating exploitation and environmental destruction!” explains Johanna Kusch, spokesperson for the Initiative Lieferkettengesetz.

The dam collapse at an iron ore mine in the small Brazilian city of Brumadinho in early 2019, resulting in 272 deaths, is just one devastating example of the human rights abuses taking place in the mining and energy sector. The fact that German company TÜV SÜD bears significant responsibility for this catastrophe shows that companies are repeatedly flouting human rights in their overseas operations. It is not enough for only 50 or even 90 percent of companies to respect human rights. Business should not kill – even a single death is one too many. Equally, victims of human rights abuses should be able to bring companies to justice, through the German civil courts if necessary,” demands Pirmin Spiegel, Director General of MISEREOR.

“Despite selling products made by workers who are exposed to highly toxic pesticides and paid starvation wages, international comparisons show that German supermarket chains are doing very little to protect human rights. The situation is far better in the UK, not least because the British government has passed the Modern Slavery Act. If we want German supermarkets to make real progress here too, we need a supply chain law. After all, we don’t want suffering and exploitation as ingredients in our meals,” stresses Marion Lieser, Executive Director at Oxfam Deutschland e. V.

“The Amazon is burning and many of those affected locally are losing their livelihoods. Many of these fires were started to free up land to grow soybeans that are then used to feed German factory farms. This is just one of countless examples of how environmental degradation goes hand in hand with human rights abuses. We need, at long last, a supply chain law in Germany so that companies uphold environmental standards and human rights around the globe,” demands Ernst-Christoph Stolper, Deputy Chairman of Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND).

“Commercial competition that takes place at the expense of our natural world and basic workers’ rights is unfair competition. Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are not only human rights and basic democratic principles, they are a prerequisite for decent work and social progress. We need to put a stop to the prevailing global business practices of ecological and social dumping. A supply chain law would be a bold step in the right direction,” says Frank Zach from the federal executive board of the DGB, the German Trade Union Confederation.

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