Protecting Human and Environmental Rights in the Auto Supply Chain: the new German Due Diligence Law seen from Africa

Publication Type:

Conference Paper

Source:

Gerpisa colloquium, Brussels (2023)

Abstract:

On 16 July 2021, Germany passed a new ‘Act on Corporate Due Diligence Obligations for the Prevention of Human Rights Violations in Supply Chains’ (Supply Chain Due Diligence Act, SCDDA, or in German: Lieferkettensorgfaltspflichtengesetz, LkSG). The Act, which has been in force since January 2023, has the potential to become an important tool to fight human and environmental rights violations in supply chains, and to lay a crucial stone within the regulation of corporate behaviour within global supply chains.

Building on a collective study conducted for the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Trade Union Competence Center (FES TUCC) in 2022, and combining views from Germany with perspectives from Ghana, Kenya and South Africa, the present work will reflect on the potential of the new law, on its possible limitations, and how it could be received, and applied, in the Global South. Drawing on fieldwork conducted with auto companies and trade unions in the four countries, the paper covers several issues. Firstly, it reports the current political debate on the SCDDA, from the perspective of German institutions, part of the auto industry, the metalworkers union (IG Metall) and selected works councils. Secondly, it voices the views of three Sub-Saharan African countries – Ghana, Kenya and South Africa. It provides their initial remarks on the contents of the law; an overall analysis of existing auto clusters in the three countries; an overview of most common rights violations in the supply chain, and of existing structures/mechanisms to perform risk analysis and file complaints. Eventually, the three case studies aim to shed light on the type of information and tools that the actors involved in defending human and environmental rights (namely trade unions and civil society organisations) may need to make the best use of the law and fulfil its potential.

Overall, the paper seeks to assess the actual potential of the SCDDA in the auto supply chain; the opportunity for it to be not only implemented, but also extended to involve more companies and workers than it currently does, and the view of countries and unions at the receiving end. Ultimately, it claims, only the view of countries, companies and workers operating in the most vulnerable nodes of the chain, where rights violations are most likely to occur, can inform an effective implementation of the law, highlight its limitations, and lead to better labour, human and environmental conditions in the supply chain.   

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Concéption Tommaso Pardi
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