3BL: GRI Concern Over ‘Watered Down’ EU Corporate Governance Directive

The global sustainability reporting standard setter calls for more ambition in scope and reach by the European Commission

Following the publication of the European Commission’s proposal for the Sustainable Corporate Governance Directive, GRI – the provider of the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting standards – is calling for human rights and environmental due diligence to be more strongly embedded in the legal framework.

In response to growing public demand for more effective tools to hold companies accountable for their business practices, last October a significant update to the GRI Universal Standards was launched, which included strengthened due diligence reporting.

Peter Paul van de Wijs, Chief External Affair Officer at GRI, said:

“We are pleased that companies subject to the EU’s Sustainable Corporate Governance Directive will have to integrate human rights, the environment and climate into their decisions, to ensure their business model and strategy are compatible with the transition to a sustainable economy. This includes that companies must identify the extent to which climate change is a risk to their operations.

However, we are concerned by the removal of corporate governance requirements and watered down obligations on potential adverse environmental impacts. Furthermore, the lack of clarity on supplier contracts and third party verification will not achieve the required transparency on the supply chain. Moreover, a loophole introduced means companies could be safeguarded from civil liability claims, in situations where suppliers who have not fulfilled their obligations are able to provide verifications based only on generic contractual clauses.”

Tabitha Bailey, GRI Policy Coordinator, added:

“The limited scope of the Directive – to apply to around 1% of European companies (14,000 businesses) and 3,000 firms outside of Europe – is a missed opportunity. Findings from the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre indicate they have approached 600 European companies since 2020 about alleged human rights abuses, of which the vast majority occur outside the EU.

There are already over 10,000 companies voluntarily using the GRI Standards for reporting and managing their impacts. We are at a critical time in protecting human rights and the environment, across the whole supply and value chains. For this Directive to be truly effective, it must be more ambitious in reach and scope.”

In 2021, GRI submitted a response to the European Commission’s consultation on sustainable corporate governance.

The Universal Standards 2021 apply to all reporting organizations that use the GRI Standards. The revision introduced new disclosures on policy commitments for responsible business conduct, including respect for human rights. The Universal Standards are the first and only reporting standards to fully reflect due diligence expectations for sustainability impacts, as set in intergovernmental instruments by the UN and OECD.

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is the independent, international organization that helps businesses and other organizations take responsibility for their impacts, by providing the global common language to report those impacts. The GRI Standards are developed through a multi-stakeholder process and provided as a free public good.

Source: Website Newsroom with information from GRI