Three Changes that would Strengthen the Lieferkettengesetz Significantly: Fair Wear’s Position on the German Human Rights Due Diligence Law*

The companies that make our clothes have a duty to respect human rights, wherever in the world their garments and footwear are produced. This is stated in the United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on business and human rights. Fair Wear members have been showing how to do this for over two decades, but unfortunately, many enterprises ignore this duty. In several EU countries, this has led to legislation, making this duty mandatory. After studies showed most German companies failing in their due diligence obligations, Germany is planning to pass their own Due Diligence Supply Chain law this June.

Although it is welcomed as a positive step towards EU-level legislation, the many negotiations have diluted this law. Fair Wear and its partners have written a letter sent to almost a hundred Members of the German Bundestag, with three suggestions to improve the law.

1. All companies trading in Germany should be within the scope of the law in order to create a level playing field, instead of just large companies registered in Germany. Garment companies are mostly small and medium-sized companies, and setting the bar at 1000 or more employees would exclude most of the textile industry from the scope of the law. Fair Wear members are showing that a business model respecting human rights is a viable one. When all companies were to work towards this same goal, they together would create enough leverage to improve the working conditions in factories all over the world significantly.

2. Human Rights Due Diligence is a duty covering the entire supply chain. The German draft only obliges companies to look at their direct suppliers and no further. This means that the envisaged improvements for the workers in producing countries along the whole supply chain will not be achieved

3. The UN Guiding Principles and the OECD Guidelines on multinational enterprises clearly state that companies should apply a risk-based approach, whereby they seek to prevent, mitigate, and remedy violations of human rights. The German draft says that only when a company has received ‘substantial information’ should they remediate; after the damage is done. Not only is this not in line with international guidelines, but it also means that it does not promote a system of prevention and learning.

Read the full letter to the MPs here.

Click here to read in detail Fair Wear’s position on mandatory human rights due diligence.

*Endorsed by ETI UK and Solidaridad Germany