At the EU level, there is great need for legal reforms concerning the liability of enterprises for violations of human rights and environmental norms abroad. This is the result of a study co-authored by Christiane Gerstetter, Fellow Ecologic Legal and pro-bono lawyer for the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights.
Based on two concrete cases, the study investigates to what extent European corporations are liable for environmental damage caused and human rights violations committed by their subsidiaries or suppliers abroad. The first case concerns a subsidiary of the German ThyssenKrupp AG in Brazil, the second one is about suppliers of the German discount chain Aldi in China. The authors of the study, Christiane Gerstetter and Alexander Kamieth, conclude that German civil courts are, under existing German laws, unlikely to award damages to victims of corporate behaviour abroad.
In order to address existing regulatory gaps, the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ), a civil society network promoting corporate accountability within the EU, has formulated three demands to strengthen the accountability of EU based enterprises for their activities in other countries. The two examples investigated in the study serve to illustrate the ECCJ demands and make them more concrete. The authors show that implementing the ECCJ demands would significantly improve the prospects for successful compensation claims in German courts by those who have suffered damage caused by subsidiaries or suppliers of German enterprises abroad.
The study was commissioned by Germanwatch, an organisation promoting North-South equity, for the European campaign "Rights for people – Rules for business". It is in German and available for download at the Germanwatch website. An article by Christiane Gerstetter for the campaign newspaper "Weitblick" summarises the results of the study.