Press release - Citizens and policy makers urge greater corporate accountability

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Tuesday 12 July 2011, by European Coalition for Corporate Justice

Brussels, 12 July – More than 73,000 EU citizens and 140 elected representatives and MEPs have signed a petition, to be delivered to the European Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, vice president Antonio Tajani today, calling on the Commission to hold companies operating in the EU legally accountable for any harm they cause to people and the environment around the world [1].

The petition, co-ordinated by the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ), is delivered ahead of a Round Table session hosted in the European Parliament by Richard Howitt MEP to look at conflicts in EU policies on trade, business and human rights [2].

Filip Gregor, the Chair of the European Coalition for Corporate Justice, said:
"Citizens from across the EU are backing this call for greater corporate accountability, demanding rights for people and rules for business. Companies can be a force for good but if they are responsible for causing damage to people or to the environment they should be held accountable and victims should be able to seek justice in the EU.

He added that EU companies should be required to disclose details of their activities so that they could be held to account.

One hundred and forty MPs and MEPs from across the political spectrum have pledged to support the development of such a legal framework for corporate accountability, designed to hold companies operating in and from the EU, their subsidiaries, and their directors legally responsible for the social and environmental consequences of their operations, in particular in developing countries. Legal measures to allow corporate victims to seek justice in EU courts should also be adopted.

Paul de Clerck, Steering group member of ECCJ, added: “The proposed measures would allow people in Nigeria affected by gas flaring by the oil giant Shell, for example, to seek justice through the European courts. Although the practice of flaring endangers human health, harms local ecosystems, emits large amounts of greenhouse gases and is even a violation of Nigerian law, major oil producers have been allowed to continue this practice for decades."

The Commission is due to publish a communication on corporate social responsibility in autumn 2011. Last month businesses joined the EU in declaring their support for the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, put forward by the UN Special Representative John Ruggie [3] and endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in June.

The ECCJ says the time has now come for the EU and its member states to implement their obligations to protect human rights from the activities of business corporations as clearly spelled out in the UN Guiding Principles.

Contacts:
Filip Gregor – filip.gregor at eps.cz +420 775 154 083
Paul de Clerck – paul at milieudefensie.nl +32 494 380 959
Yolaine Delaygues – communication at corporatejustice.org +32 289 310 27

Notes:
[1] 73,466 EU Citizens and 140 EU policy-makers signed the petition
“We call on you to hold companies operating in the EU legally accountable for any harm they cause to people and the environment around the world. They must disclose accurate information about their activities. Victims should face no barriers in accessing justice in the EU.”
Commissioner Tajani is responsible for EU policies on corporate social responsibility (CSR)
[2] Round Table on Reconciling EU policies in the fields of Trade andBusiness with Human Rights, hosted by Richard Howitt MEP, European Parliament Rapporteur on Corporate Social Responsibility on 13 July 2011, with the International Federation for Human Righs (FIDH), Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE) and ECCJ.
[3] For more information on the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations ’Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework, click here.