Since 2017, our work in the European Union has focused on calling for the EU to introduce stronger laws and policy that will ensure corporations take meaningful steps to prevent forced labour and that victims of forced labour can access justice.
As the world’s largest single market, the EU has huge potential to take effective action to prevent forced labour in global supply chains. Over 16 million people are estimated to be in forced labour in the private sector, which includes people producing the materials in goods or products exported to the EU, as well as products produced in the EU. This includes, for example, wine from France, seafood from Thailand, minerals for technology from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and cotton from Turkmenistan and the Uyghur Region, China.
We focus on calling for the EU to introduce stronger laws and policy that will ensure corporations respect human rights and the environment.
We work by:
- Advocating with our allies in the EU directly to the European Parliament, European Commission and European Council
- Supporting our civil society partners from around the world to be involved in the debate. We believe that the EU must directly consult with workers, trade unions and civil society where forced labour is the most prevalent
- Engaging with supportive businesses to support our campaigns
Our advocacy focuses on calling for the EU to:
- Introduce mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence that would hold companies accountable for human rights abuses, including forced labour, and environmental harm in their value chains, and make sure victims can access remedy and justice
- Introduce import controls to block or seize products made with forced labour, including child slavery
- Strengthen trade and development policy to address the root causes of forced labour – such as poverty, lack of legal protection, worker representation and discrimination
Key reports and research include:
Analysis of European Parliament’s proposal for the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (June 23)
On 1 June 2023, the European Parliament agreed its compromise text for the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD). This agreement means that the European Parliament has formed its negotiating position for the upcoming trilogue that will take place between the Parliament, European Commission and Council of the European Union for the coming months to agree the final text of the Directive. Importantly, this agreement takes us one step closer to mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD) legislation in the European Union (EU). We are pleased with the vast improvements made in this text to the Commission’s proposal, however there are some loopholes that remain, which cause serious concern for the final legislation’s ability to hold companies accountable for forced labour.
Progressing the proposed EU Regulation on prohibiting products made with forced labour: A Model Law (November 22)
As the world’s largest single market, the EU has an enormous opportunity to set global leadership in its of design laws and approaches to address systemic forced labour in corporate supply chains. This EU toolbox of legislation and policy must include legislation which controls the trade and retail of products made with forced labour on the EU market. Alongside other measures, including mandatory due diligence legislation, a forced labour ban will act as a powerful government enforcement tool which incentivises companies to meaningfully address forced labour in their supply chains.
Anti-Slavery International, ECCHR and The Greens/EFA Group therefore welcome the European Commission’s “Proposal for a Regulation on prohibiting products made with forced labour on the Union market” (‘Regulation’), published on 14 September 2022. Yet to be effective, significant improvements must be made to the European Commission’s proposal.
This Model Law sets out the key elements that must be included in the European Commission's proposal
Civil Society Statement on the Proposed Regulation on Prohibiting Products Made With Forced Labour on the Union Market (October 22)
Anti-Slavery International, alongside various other civil society organisations welcomed the European Commission's legislative proposal on prohibiting goods made with forced labour in the EU market. We believe the proposal is an essential step towards building a smart mix of tools to help eliminate forced labour, but outline how the proposal fall short of its potential. We address these concerns and outline recommendations for crucial improvements.
Response to the European Commission’s call for evidence on the proposed EU forced labour instrument (July 2022)
Anti-Slavery International and European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights response to the European Commission call for evidence on the proposed EU forced labour instrument to “keep the EU market free from products made, extracted or harvested with forced labour, whether they are made in the EU or elsewhere in the world.”
In this submission, we build on our previous work on how laws should be designed which ban the import of goods produced with forced labour. This contribution builds on our experience in working with partners based in countries with a high prevalence of forced labour which are linked to supply chains of products sold in the EU. Furthermore, this contribution builds on the lessons learnt from existing import control measures in the USA, and analysis of current gaps in EU legislation.
Analysis of the European Commission proposal for a Directive on corporate sustainability due diligence (May 2022)
Anti-Slavery International analysis of the European Commission proposal for a Directive on corporate sustainability due diligence
Following the long-awaited publication of the European Commission’s proposal for mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence legislation in February 2022, we released a comprehensive analysis of the proposal for a directive on due diligence.
Despite some of these positive elements, current loopholes are limiting the upcoming law’s potential impact on the lives of workers and communities around the world. We give specific recommendations for the European Parliament and the European Council to strengthen the directive and achieve real change on the ground.
Anti-Slavery International and European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights’ position on import controls to address forced labour in supply chains
Following the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, we, together with the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights, published a position paper on when and how governments should introduce import controls to end forced labour.
Import controls should not be the only measure used to address forced labour in global supply chains. Instead, they should be introduced as part of strong legal, trade and development framework to address the root causes of forced labour – poverty, lack of legal protection, worker representation and discrimination.
EU law. Global impact. A report considering the potential impact of human rights due diligence laws on labour exploitation and forced labour
On 28 June 2021, we published new research, undertaken by the Rights Lab, University of Nottingham, to understand how the upcoming EU business and human rights law could affect workers’ human rights through two case studies: the leather industry in India, and the coffee industry in Brazil.
What if? Case studies of human rights abuses and environmental harm linked to EU companies, and how EU due diligence laws could help protect people and the planet.
ECCJ and Anti-Slavery International’s report details a number of case studies where EU-based companies have failed to address corporate abuse and environmental harm in their global value chains, profited from it, and so far managed to avoid liability before the courts.
The case studies clearly demonstrate how EU wide mandatory cross-sectoral human rights and environmental due diligence legislation, with improved access to remedy rules, would make a difference in these cases.
European Commission: mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence
In February 2022, the European Commission published its proposal for mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence. It also published its commitment to introduce a law banning forced labour goods. These announcements were a game-changer, and came as a result of our sustained campaigning.
We are now working with our partners in the EU and around the world to ensure these commitments turn into legislation that drives respect for people and the planet. For the latest news on our EU campaigns, check out our blogs.