Video: 5 questions about upcoming sustainability legislation 

A new video series answers questions about the regulations that will make corporate sustainability the new normal. Episode 1: MVO Platform explains how national legislation ties into EU legislation.

Most European companies directly or indirectly buy products abroad. Food, fashion, electronics: most of what we buy is – at least in part – manufactured in low and middle income countries. This means that the economies of European countries are deeply intertwined with others’. A relationship brings mutual benefits, but also responsibilities.

New legislation is formulating the rules for this relationship. Fairfood and Futureproof Coffee Collective joined forces to map the most frequent doubts among companies – especially SMEs – when it comes to the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive and other laws requiring companies to identify and act on adverse impacts on human rights in their supply chains. 

To answer their questions, we invited experts in a series of video interviews. With each interview, we will answer 5 practical aspects based on the current law drafts. 

Episode 1: How do national and EU laws tie into each other? With Manon Wolfkamp, from MVO Platform

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Manon Wolkamp, legislative coordinator of the Dutch MVO Platform (Dutch Responsible Business Conduct Platform) explains the role European countries play in complementing the EU Commission’s mission to level the playing field for companies doing business abroad. The platform works with multiple stakeholders in responsible business conduct, with Manon coordinating this work for 6 years now. 

After France, England and Germany, the Netherlands is drafting its national CSR regulation. However, a major backlash has gripped the media recently, mostly based on information that isn’t exactly true. “We knew we would have an intense conversation on the content of the law, and we might have to change certain articles. But we never expected the game to be played so dirty”, Manon shared, referring to the rumours that companies’ CEOs would be going to jail, and companies’ threats to leave the Netherlands if the law is passed. 

“The main enforcement mechanism in the law is a public supervisory authority. And this authority, in the law, is really asked to focus on improving the capacity of companies, to actually do responsible business conduct”, she explained. “It is now portrayed that doing business in a responsible way is very costly and will really lead to a bad business environment for companies. We also believe that doing business in a responsible way can bring a lot of benefits to companies.” She feels important benefits are now ignored in the discussion. One of them being the fact that 83% of the Dutch public wants ambitious legislation on responsible business conduct. 

According to the latest New Economy Index (NEx), produced by MVO Nederland, 16.5% of Dutch businesses are now sustainable. This is only 1.1% higher than the previous year, which shows that the sustainable transition is taking longer than expected. To meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations and the Paris Climate Agreement, 20% of Dutch businesses has to be sustainable by 2025. “What this piece of legislation is asking, is that each company uses its own influence to change circumstances in the value chain. All according to the size of the company and the place you have in the value chain, and also on the severity of the negative impact that you have”, Manon explained. “The law allows companies to start this conversation, they don’t have to be perfect from the get-go.” 

Press play to understand what types of enforcement are really coming into effect and what benefits the current discussion is leaving out.

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