Decent Work in Global Supply Chains

Chapter 1.2 Transnational corporations as actors


Previous responses already provide for an array of concrete examples where the undue or fraudulent involvement of corporate and lobby groups in decision making process has had dramatic consequences. In addition, I would like to mention some cases of important pieces of legislation that are pending approval and that are heavily contested by corporates.

The Swiss Foreign Affairs Committee requested to introduce mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence for Swiss corporations. The proposal was accepted at the lower chamber of the Swiss parliament in February 2015. However, briefly after the first vote, there was a request to have a second round and on that occasion, the rejected in a very tight and political vote. A Responsible Business Initiative was launched April 2015 to trigger a binding referendum on the subject. Over 140,000 signatures have been obtained to demand the Swiss Federal Council and the Parliament the introduction of the article 101a «Responsibility of business» in the Constitution. If the initiative is passed, the Swiss companies would be compelled to integrate the protection of human rights and the environment in all their business activities, all through their supply chains.

In the US Section 307 of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1307) states: "All goods, wares, articles, and merchandise mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part in any foreign country by convict labour or forced labour [...] shall not be entitled to entry at any of the ports of the US, and the importation thereof is prohibited." The law is unambiguous: products made through slave labour cannot be imported into the US. But the law has a loophole: the law includes an exemption if the goods are not produced and manufactured in sufficient quantities in the US to meet the consumptive demands of the country. US Senator Ron Wyden (Oregon-D) wants to amend this consumptive demand exemption as part of a pending trade bill. This trade bill is under a lot of scrutiny.

Still in the US, in July 2015 the US Congress introduced the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2015. This bill will require businesses to disclose policies and practices they employ to eliminate human trafficking from operations and product development. There is no clear view of when this bill may be discussed.

In France, the Socialist and the Green Parties introduced the bill concerning the duty of care of parent companies and donor-order companies. The bill was approved in 2015 by the National Assembly but later rejected by the French Senate in November 2015. On second reading, the National Assembly approved the bill and the French Senate received it March 24th 2016. The Senate is expected to study the proposal again. With Presidential elections this year, the law is not expected to be passed this year either, as there are important groups opposing it. Under current drafting, it will require multinational corporations with more than 5 000 employees in France, or 10 000 in France and abroad, to prepare plans describing due diligence measures to identify and prevent risk of violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

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