The Netherlands have passed a new law requiring companies to ensure that there is no child labour in their supply chains. On 14 May 2019, the Dutch Senate voted to adopt the Child Labour Due Diligence Bill, under which Dutch companies will have to conduct due diligence to address child labour in their supply chains. The law will enter into force on 1 January 2020 at the earliest.
The law is an important step for the growing European movement for regulation requiring companies to conduct due diligence for all human rights and environmental risks in their supply chain. Following the vote in the Dutch Senate, the D66 parliamentary group, which was key in securing the positive result, said that they “see the [child labour] law as an opportunity for a step in the right direction to ensure companies conduct supply chain due diligence for all human rights and environmental aspects”.
Companies have repeatedly made clear they prefer a harmonised EU-level regulation rather than many national laws with different scope and approach. The European Commission will soon publish a study examining the desirability of European human rights and environmental due diligence legislation. The Commission is also expected to issue a Communication on Stepping up EU Action on Deforestation and Forest Degradation, and NGOs have been calling for it to include such a regulation.
Human rights supply chain legislation exists in France and in the UK, and Germany and Finland are moving in that direction. The EU should take note of the increasing proliferation of such national laws, and act now to devise a harmonised European approach.
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