The French law on the ‘duty of vigilance’ of parent and subcontracting companies was passed on the 23rd of March 2017. The law, which is the result of years of campaigning by civil society, is a major step forward in the fight against the impunity of transnational corporations, which violate the rights of both their workers and local communities and pollute the environment worldwide.
More than six months after the law came into force, it remains relatively poorly understood and there are still many questions around its implementation and its scope. This report begins with an overview of the steps that led to the law’s entry into force as well as of its content, and then looks at three concrete examples, illustrating the way in which the law should be interpreted: Total and its palm oil ‘biorefinery’ in La Mède, Société Générale and its support for the fracked gas export terminal Rio Grande LNG in the US, and lastly, the case of French retail chains and their business relations with the banana industry in Ecuador.
The draft treaty represents a unique opportunity to ‘internationalise’ the French law, and also to improve upon its weaker points, particularly in regards to victims’ access to justice.