The Supply Chain Act is a major step forward, but in some cases it brings with it unnecessary bureaucracy. Roger Peltzer explains how all the objectives of the Supply Chain Act can be achieved with less bureaucracy by benchmarking against proven and recognized sustainability standards.

The European supply chain act has been launched and that is a good thing. Many partners from the Global South are already reporting that companies subject to the German Supply Chain Act are paying much closer attention to local living and working conditions. The chairman of the Costa Rican banana workers' union notes that a representative of Lidl, for example, has now traveled to Costa Rica following complaints from the union to take a look at the working hours and wages of the workers there and to hold out the prospect of improvements. And with European legislation, there is now a level playing field for all larger companies. This is why companies such as Tchibo, Otto, Rewe, Ikea and others have also campaigned for this law.

Excessive bureaucracy becomes a blockade

Nevertheless, the accusation that companies are being overwhelmed with a lot of (unnecessary) bureaucracy as a result of the Supply Chain Act cannot be completely dismissed. The fact is that companies operating in the textile sector, for example, are confronted with a large number of voluntary and statutory requirements, each of which entails many reporting obligations that have to be processed separately, even if the requirements of many of them largely coincide.

Human rights, social and environmental risks limited by sustainability standards

Let's take the example of cotton cultivation and processing. There are high human rights, social and environmental risks in this sector. These include exploitative child labor, the unprotected use of toxic pesticides, low-paid and miserable seasonal work in cotton ginning plants. In order to limit these risks, which can cause considerable damage to the image and loss of sales for companies selling cotton textiles, companies such as Otto, Tchibo, Rewe, Ikea, H&M and many others joined forces years ago with non-governmental organizations, cotton traders, cotton growers and the German and Dutch governments to develop the standards Cotton Made in Africa (CmiA) – auf Afrika begrenzt – und Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) – weltweit tätig – ins Leben gerufen.

These standards ensure - and this is regularly checked by independent auditing companies - that minimum social and ecological criteria are observed in cotton cultivation. For example, no exploitative child labor may be used in BCI or CmiA-certified cotton; no cotton may be grown in areas with a high level of ecological diversity; no cotton may be grown in areas with a high level of ecological diversity. WHO particularly hazardous pesticides must not be used, corrupt business practices are not permitted, contracts between farmers and cotton buyers must be negotiated transparently, farmers must have the right to form associations, etc.

In addition, the aforementioned standards commit to continuously improving the degree of fulfillment of other criteria over time. For example, the number of farmers who use natural compost in cultivation should increase over time, the cultivation of nitrogenous plants such as peas or soya in the crop rotation should be increased in order to improve soil fertility, etc. Compliance with this commitment is also monitored by independent auditors and reported transparently on the websites of the respective organizations. Partners who do not comply with these conditions will have their CMIA or BCI license withdrawn, so that Tchibo and Ikea, for example, can be sure that they are only buying "safe" products with the CmiA and BCI certificates. This also applies to Fairtrade or organic cotton, which only have very small market shares.

Requirements in the Supply Chain Act are 95% in line with existing standards

If you now look at the risks that are to be excluded, limited or reduced under the Supply Chain Act, you will see that at least 95% of them are covered by the CmiA and BCI standards. Does this mean that companies that source CmiA and BCI certified cotton are now exempt from the extensive reporting obligations under the Supply Chain Act for this area? Unfortunately, clearly not!

Of course, you might ask yourself who ensures that a sustainability standard is not just greenwashing. But the German government and the BMZ found an answer to this question years ago by helping to establish the international ISEAL Alliance based in London. Among other things, ISEAL ensures that the standards that want to become a member of ISEAL must meet certain demanding criteria. They need a transparent governance structure with checks and balances; they must be transparent to the general public; the social and environmental criteria must meet certain minimum requirements; they must carry out independent impact monitoring and work on continuous improvement, etc. And ISEAL regularly checks whether the member standards meet all these criteria. If this is not the case, they lose their ISEAL membership status. Does membership of ISEAL mean that a company is exempt from the reporting obligations under the Supply Chain Act with regard to the area covered by an ISEAL-recognized sustainability standard? Again, unfortunately, clearly no.

Benchmarking could solve bureaucracy problem

What has been described here using the example of CmiA and BCI also applies to many other standards outside the textile sector. However, if the aforementioned cotton standards, the Fairware standard and or the membership criteria for the Green Dot (which was also initiated by the BMZ) were recognized as equivalent to the requirements of the Supply Chain Act, around 2/3 of the reporting obligations for the companies concerned in the textile sector would be eliminated. In principle, the responsible federal office BAFA, which is responsible for checking compliance with the obligations under the Supply Chain Act, would then only have to go and determine at regular intervals whether a particular standard continues to comply with the obligations of the international standards organization ISEAL.

Companies would have an incentive to introduce sustainability standards

Such benchmarking would also increase the incentive for companies in the textile supply chain to join the recognized standards and the Green Dot. This in turn would increase the market for sustainable textiles and the demand for sustainable cotton, which would have a substantial positive impact on development policy. The BMZ could now fight poverty by reducing bureaucracy without spending a single euro.

The employees of the various institutions and authorities are now so caught up in the logic of their respective implementing regulations that they cannot be expected to make simplification proposals. This requires political and ministerial initiatives, a task on which the traffic light factions should also be able to easily agree.

Read the article on epo.de

Title image by Alexander Stielau

Autor

  • Roger Peltzer

    70 Jahre alt, verheiratet, 3 Kinder und bald 4 Enkel. Ich habe an der Universität Münster Volkswirtschaft studiert und anschließend den postgraduierten Kurs am deutschen Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (heute IDOS) absolviert.

EU-Lieferkettengesetz: Mehr Menschenrecht mit weniger Bürokratie?

Roger Peltzer


70 Jahre alt, verheiratet, 3 Kinder und bald 4 Enkel. Ich habe an der Universität Münster Volkswirtschaft studiert und anschließend den postgraduierten Kurs am deutschen Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (heute IDOS) absolviert.


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4 thoughts on “EU-Lieferkettengesetz: Mehr Menschenrecht mit weniger Bürokratie?

  1. Lieber Herr Peltzer,
    vielen Dank für die kritische Auseinandersetzung und die konkreten Vorschläge zur Einordnung. In unserem jüngsten Kenia EDP zu Sozialstandards und Sorgfaltspflichten haben wir Erfahrungen gemacht, die mit Ihren Vorschlägen insofern kongruent sind, als landes- und sektorspezifische Benchmarks viel sinnvoller wären als „one size fits all“ Ansätze. Ich würde mich freuen, wenn wir uns in der Vorbereitung unseres nächsten Programmes evtl. mit Ihnen bzgl. Mitwirkung beim Vorbereitungstreffen der EDP-Teilnehmenden in Verbindung setzen könnten. Viele Grüße aus Köln von EDP bei AGIAMONDO,
    Jörg Hilgers (joerg.hilgers@agiamondo.org )

  2. Hallo Roger,
    ist es langfristig nicht zielführender, wenn das europäische Lieferkettengesetz die existierenden Verträge und Dokumentationsverpflichtungen zum Thema ersetzt bzw. ablöst, statt die bestehenden, unterschiedlichen Verträge auf alle Zeiten mitzuschleppen?
    Viele Grüße
    Roland

    1. Lieber Roland,

      der Sachverhalt ist Folgender: Die Unternehmen müssen nach dem Lieferkettengesetz anhand einer umfangreichen Dokumentation nachweisen, dass sich die menschenrechtlichen, ökologischen und sozialen Risiken in ihrer Lieferkette genau angeschaut haben und Maßnahmen ergriffen haben, um diese Risiken zu begrenzen.
      Nun leisten seriöse Standards wie BCI und CmiA genau diese Risikoanalyse und auch auch die Eingrenzung der festgestellten Risiken. Mein Vorschlag zielt deshalb darauf, dass Unternehmen im Rahmen ihrer Risikoanalyse nach dem EU-Lieferkettengesetz z.B. für den Bereich „Bezug“ Baumwolle, einfach darauf verweisen können, dass sie nach CmiA bzw. BCI zertifiziert sind. Sie bräuchten dann im Rahmen ihrer Berichtspflichten nach dem Lieferkettengesetzt für den Bereich Baumwolle keine weitere Fragebögen mehr auszufüllen

  3. Lieber Roger,
    Besten Dank für diese Erläuterungen zur Einhaltung des Lieferkettengesetzes und den konkreten Vorschlag zum Bürokratieabbau, der ja derzeit die Debatten stark beeinflusst und sicher zu Recht. Exzellent!
    Schönen Gruß
    Ingo Melchers

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