Legislative opportunities to improve corporate accountability at EU level

European coalition for corporate justice (ECCJ), May 2008, 20 p. (pdf)

The European Coalition for Corporate Justice was founded in 2005
with a mission to promote an ethical regulatory framework for European
business, wherever in the world that business may operate.
The European Coalition for Corporate Justice’s members represent
a diverse range of groups from across Europe aimed at alleviating
poverty, protecting human rights and ensuring environmental
sustainability1. During 2007, the Coalition undertook a research
project involving international lawyers, academics and human
rights and environmental advocates in order to evaluate the current
obstacles to corporate justice and what changes to EU law
could help prevent human rights abuses and environmental degradation
committed by European companies. The European Coalition
for Corporate Justice found that the legal structure of companies
and weak accountability mechanisms have all too often resulted in
ethical mismanagement by companies. This report builds on this
research and illustrates how changes to European law could make
real improvements to victims of European corporate abuse.

From mercury poisoning in South Africa to child labour in India,
companies’ breach of environmental and human rights standards
has revealed systemic failings in the operation of many companies
that has resulted in environmental and social harm for many years.
Since the United Nations’ (UN) Universal Declaration of Human
Rights of 1948 there have been a number of subsequent international
treaties referring to evolving human rights standards and
environmental protection. These treaties are binding on States, but
not on companies. Although it could be argued that companies
are also bound to respect human rights – at least those belonging
to customary international law or to the general principles of
law – there currently exists no binding mechanism at the international
level ensuring that they are held accountable for any violations
they commit, or in which they are complicit. Although drafts
of laws obligating Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) directly have
been proposed, most notably The Draft UN Code of Conduct of
Transnational Corporations and The UN Norms on the Responsibilities
of Transnational Corporations; neither has become a binding
legal standard.

 Read the report "Legislative opportunities to improve corporate accountability at EU level" (pdf)