Brussels, London, Paris, Berlin, Tuesday 21st October – In the last ten years, almost half of the companies listed on Europe’s three main stock exchanges have been identified in concerns or allegations about human rights-related harms, according to new research launched today by the Brussels-based NGO network, the European Coalition for Corporate Justice.
Claims that European banks financed projects which contributed to large-scale deforestation in Indonesia;
Claims that aggressive buying practices contributed to serious health and safety breaches in Bangladeshi garment factories, leading to the deaths of workers;
Claims that local communities have been forcibly evicted without compensation to make way for mining operations in Colombia.
The research, which summarises concerns and allegations of human rights abuse and human rights-related issues including corruption, tax evasion and environmental damage, was commissioned from the International Peace Information Service (IPIS) .
The analysis of companies listed on the UK FTSE 100, French CAC 40 and German DAX 30 stock exchanges finds concerns have been raised in relation to all sectors, from banking and retail to extractives and pharmaceuticals.
The study is an analysis of media reports and information from NGO websites. It comes as the new European Commission has made reducing regulatory burdens for business a priority for the next five years.
Commenting on the report, Jerome Chaplier, ECCJ Coordinator said:
“Some of Europe’s biggest companies are alleged to have been involved in serious human rights abuses. Governments have failed to oversee or regulate their private sector. With this backdrop, the emphasis from the European Commission on cutting “red tape” is a cause for concern. The Commission must not allow this to lead to lower environmental and human rights standards – or promote a voluntary approach to corporate responsibility which would make these standards subject to companies’ will.”
The report finds that 43 out of 84 companies listed on the UK’s FTSE 100 were named in reports on human rights issues in the last ten years; in Germany, 23 of the companies listed on the DAX 30 index were identified and in France, 24 out of 37 companies on the CAC 40 index.
The report notes that under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, European States and the European Union have an internationally recognised duty to protect against human right abuses by companies, including in their activities abroad. It points out that there is increasing recognition that businesses have a responsibility to prevent human rights harms throughout their operations.
“This report reveals the poor record of some of the biggest European companies over the past decade. Since the adoption in 2011 of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, progressive companies are taking action. We now need the European Union to play its part to level the playing field and require all companies to conduct human rights due diligence. Respect for human rights is not just a nice idea or an aspiration. It is a duty and a matter of political will. The process of renewing the European corporate social responsibility strategy is an opportunity to develop a bold plan of action, including binding rules which will prevent future human rights abuses. This impressive list of allegations of human rights violations shows how indefensible it is for the EU and its governments to simply maintain status quo”.
Jerome Chaplier, European Coalition for Corporate Justice Coordinator, Tel.: +32 (0)2 893 10 26; mobile: +32 (0) 477 184 753; coordinator at corporatejustice.org
Filip Reyniers, International Peace Information Service, Tel.: +32 (0) 322 500 22; filip.reyniers at ipisresearch.be
 The Adverse Human Rights Risk and Impacts of European Companies: Getting a glimpse of the picture was commissioned by the European Coalition for Corporate Justice from the International Peace Information Service (IPIS) and is published on 21st October 2014. It looks at the activities of companies listed on the UK FTSE 100, the French CAC 40 and the German DAX 30, analysing concerns and allegations of human rights risks and impacts as registered on the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) website, amongst others.
The European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ) represents over 250 organisations spread across 15 European countries, including NGOs, trade unions, consumer advocacy groups and academic institutions. For more information see: www.corporatejustice.org
The International Peace Information Service (IPIS) is an independent research institute, providing governmental and non-governmental actors with information and analysis to build sustainable peace and development in Sub-Saharan Africa. The research is centred around four programmes: Natural Resources, Business & Human Rights, Arms Trade & Security, and Conflict Mapping.