Brussels, 28 October 2013 – In April 2013 the EU Commission launched a reform to improve corporate transparency on environmental and human rights matters. The European Coalition for Corporate Justice , which Access Info is a member of, welcomed the initiative as a first step towards corporate accountability, while highlighting the loopholes in the proposed changes.
What follows is an update from the ECCJ coalition secretariat on the status of the EU negotiations; if passed, the Non-Financial Reporting Directive has the potential to increase the amount of information available to the public about the impacts businesses have on human rights and the environment.
The reform is currently being debated in the European parliament and in the Council. A first vote in the Parliament’s committee in charge of the dossier (JURI -legal affairs committee) is expected for the 17th December 2013. The Parliament plenary vote is expected in February 2014. The Council has held several meeting at a technical level and the reform is expected to go at a more political level in November 2013.
In the Parliament, intense negotiations are foreseen between the political groups who want to reduce the ambition and scope of the proposal; and others which want stronger requirements and enforcement.
In the Council, a group of Member States led by the UK and Germany are trying to weaken the proposal. The Council’s first compromise text reflects their position and is a clear step backwards.
The negative amendments proposed by the Council and by the European Parliament’s Rapporteur would ensure that non-financial reporting remains virtually voluntary, and would fail to ensure that relevant information about potential impacts on people and the environment are part of such reporting. In particular:
• Truthfulness of information and lack of control and sanctions: Companies could potentially provide misleading information on their environmental and human right policies and impacts, and there would be no consequence.
• If environmental and human right abuses are not financially relevant (i.e. “material” for companies), they would not have to be mentioned in such report.
• Directors would not be held liable for the information provided (‘safe harbour clause’) – which means that if information proves to be wrong or misleading, directors’ responsibility could not be engaged.
• The weak “comply or explain” approach, combined with the above-mentioned loopholes, would allow exceptions not to report on some risks and impacts that are highly relevant for workers, communities and the planet.
The timeline for discussions is very short. The coming European elections of 2014 present a very tangible risk of having the reform going into limbo. ECCJ members will now intensify their efforts to ensure that the reform takes into account the voice of affected communities, workers and the environment.
For more information, please contact: Yolaine Delaygues, Secretariat of ECCJ at email@example.com