Paris, July 7th, 2021 – CCFD-Terre Solidaire and Sherpa publish today the third edition of the “Duty of Vigilance Radar”. According to the research conducted by the two organisations, at least 263 companies appear to be subject to the French law on the duty of vigilance, which aims to prevent and remedy human rights and environmental violations committed abroad by French companies.
Our study has identified six companies that have been served with formal notices or summonses, as well as 44 companies that have still not published the vigilance plan required by the law.
A law against the impunity of multinational companies
Since March 27th, 2017, the law on the duty of vigilance establishes a legal obligation of vigilance for companies with more than 5,000 employees in France or more than 10,000 employees worldwide.
This law aims to prevent serious human rights and environmental abuses resulting from the activities of large French companies, including through their subsidiaries, suppliers or subcontractors located all over the world. This law is based on two related obligations: an obligation to take adequate and effective vigilance measures, and an obligation of transparency, through the publication of a vigilance plan.
A tool, the Duty of Vigilance Radar
As demonstrated in the previous editions of the “Duty of Vigilance Radar” in 2019 and 2020, due to the lack of monitoring of this law and the opacity from which some companies fully benefit, it is impossible for citizens to identify exhaustively the companies subject to this obligation.
In view of the importance of this issue, CCFD-Terre Solidaire and Sherpa have created an online tool, vigilance-plan.org, to serve as a citizen’s watchdog to guarantee access to information about the implementation of this law.
This 2021 edition of the duty of vigilance radar reveals that:
- At least 263 companies are subject to the law on the duty of vigilance
- 6 companies have been summoned to court or have received formal notices from organisations and/or unions
- 44 companies have still not published a vigilance plan, despite reminders sent by CCFD-Terre Solidaire, Sherpa, and Amnesty International France over the last months. Among these companies, McDonald’s, Lactalis, Bigard, Adrexo, Leroy Merlin, Generali, Altrad, Euro Disney. In their report, the organisations publish the justifications put forward by some of those companies to justify the absence of such a plan.
A legislation that must be enforced and extended
As the duty of vigilance is in the process of being extended at the European level, these pitfalls in the application of French legislation (excessively high thresholds, lack of access to information, etc.) must be corrected. Especially, the new European legislation should facilitate legal action against companies that fail to meet their obligations.
For Swann Bommier, Advocacy Officer for the regulation of multinational companies at CCFD-Terre Solidaire:
“This third edition of the Duty of Vigilance Radar reveals the apathy and the clear lack of willingness from the government and the majority to ensure the control and the implementation of this law: for four years now, no list of companies subject to this law has been released, and failures to publish vigilance plans remain unpunished.
More alarming, Bercy does not seem to be concerned about the concrete implementation of the law: the company EDF, controlled by the State via the French Government Shareholding Agency (Agence des participations de l’Etat : APE), is involved in human rights violations in Mexico, without any reaction from the public authorities”.
In June 2020, the CCFD-Terre Solidaire and Sherpa recommended that State aids from the recovery plan be conditional on the respect of this basic transparency requirement. This idea was supported by various members of parliament but rejected by the government and the parliamentary majority.
For Lucie Chatelain, Advocacy and Litigation Officer at Sherpa:
“It is clear from the companies’ answers to our letters: some of them do not take seriously their duty of vigilance, which they consider as a mere administrative formality they can apply as they please. The European lawmaker must absolutely exclude this logic, by reinforcing liability mechanisms and by facilitating the victims’ access to justice”.
See our report presenting our research and investigative methodology, as well as the companies’ responses to our reminder letters (in French):