Focus falls on corporate vigilance and accountability in Belgium
04 May 2021
Lawmakers push for a framework for mandatory value chain due diligence.
On 2 April 2021, a legislative proposal entitled “Proposition de loi instaurant un devoir de vigilance et un devoir de responsabilité à charge des entreprises tout au long de leurs chaînes de valeur” or “Wetsvoorstel houdende de instelling van een zorg- en verantwoordingsplicht voor de ondernemingen, over hun hele waardeketen heen”1 was introduced by members of various political parties before the Belgian Chamber of Representatives (the Belgian Vigilance Proposal). The Chamber of Representatives voted in favour of considering this legislative proposal on 22 April 2021, a few weeks ahead of the 10th anniversary of the unanimous endorsement by the United Nations Human Rights Council of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).
The Belgian Vigilance Proposal establishes the principle of corporate responsibility to respect human rights, labour rights and the environment as well as mandatory due diligence obligations for all companies established or active in Belgium, with respect to their entire value chain. It further envisages an extensive liability regime, providing for criminal sanctions as well as collective legal redress by victims. It is the first legislative proposal introduced in the area of Business and Human Rights (BHR) in Belgium2, following repeated calls from both Belgian civil society3 and companies4 for a binding legal framework on corporate due diligence, as well as significant legal developments at EU level (see our contribution “Shaping the future: the increasing influence of human rights on business” here). Although the Belgian Vigilance Proposal is still at a very early stage in the legislative process, we thought that it would be useful to provide a preliminary overview of its key features, given the significant impact this proposal may have on the Belgian legal landscape and businesses.
Click on the button below to read our analysis of the proposal’s key features.
1Proposition de loi instaurant un devoir de vigilance et un devoir de responsabilité à charge des entreprises tout au long de leurs chaînes de valeur, Doc. Parl., Chambre, 2020-2021, n° 55-1903/001, available at: www.lachambre.be/FLWB/PDF/55/1903/55K1903001.pdf.
2Aside from the Law of 3 September 2017 which relates to non-financial reporting and applies to certain large companies and some large groups.
3CNCD, Mémorandum: Fondements essentiels pour une loi belge sur le devoir de vigilance, Octobre 2020, available at: www.cncd.be/IMG/pdf/nlfr_memorandum_zorgplicht_final-27-11-2020.pdf
4Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, Belgique: 60 entreprises demandent au gouvernement un cadre législatif contraignant sur le devoir de vigilance en matière de droits de l'homme et d’environnement, 12 February 2021, available at: www.business-humanrights.org/de/latest-news/belgique-60-entreprises-demandent-au-gouvernement-un-cadre-l%C3%A9gislatif-contraignant-sur-le-devoir-de-vigilance-en-mati%C3%A8re-de-droits-de-lhomme-et-denvironnement/.