A regular briefing for the alternative asset management industry.
At the end of last month, the European Commission unveiled its much-delayed plan to require companies doing business in the European Union to undertake far-reaching sustainability due diligence throughout their supply chain. Heralded by the Commission as "a game-changer" which will "project European values on value chains", the proposal has already drawn fire for not going far enough. Critics have pointed out that the new rules will only apply to the very largest companies, and do not significantly extend directors' fiduciary duties. The Commission has apparently decided that a less ambitious proposal will improve its chances of getting legislation in place quickly – perhaps even by the end of this year.
The proposal will now be negotiated with the Parliament and the Council (made up of the EU's 27 member states) and the final rules will almost certainly change during that process. However, the Parliament and the Council will be supportive: they have both called on the Commission to come forward with this proposal, and some member states – including France and Germany – have already introduced their own supply chain due diligence rules.
Notwithstanding the criticisms, the Commission's proposals are radical because they would require companies in scope, which will include some asset managers and many non-EU companies, to operate an ongoing process to identify – and then prevent, end or mitigate – actual and potential adverse human rights and environmental impacts across their "value chain" (including anyone, upstream or downstream, with whom they have an "established business relationship)". There is also a requirement for some large companies (again, potentially including asset managers) to prepare a plan to ensure that their business strategy is compatible with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
...outsiders affected by [a failure to comply with the law]...would be able to bring a claim for damages against the company for any losses suffered as a result. That could be a game-changer.