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Towards a German Supply Chain Act? Comments from a Choice of Law and Comparative Perspective

Following a lecture delivered in September 2020 at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and Private International Law in Hamburg, Giesela Rühl (Humboldt University of Berlin) published a paper on SSRN – Towards a German Supply Chain Act? Comments from a Choice of Law and Comparative Perspective – analysing the project for a legislative proposal expected to shape Germany’s legislation in the field of corporate responsibility.

The project for a Supply Chain Act (Lieferkettengesetz) comes as a response to a second national survey published in July which analysed the implementation of the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (NAP). According to the results presented by the Federal Labour Minister Hubertus Heil and Federal International Development Minister Gerd Müller only a few companies are voluntarily taking responsibility to ensure that human rights are respected in their supply chain. Consequently, the coalition considered that the idea of a national supply chain law needs to be pursued. A hearing by the Committee for Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid of the German Bundestag that took place on 28 October 2020 under the leadership of Gyde Jensen (FDP) showed that many experts in Germany are in favour of a Supply Chain Law. Experts from business, politics and society predominantly supported the federal government’s plan for such a law, which is intended to improve compliance with human rights and environmental standards in the global environment.

As the subject remains a hot topic for the German legislator and it will have consequences beyond the German territory, Prof. Rühl’s addresses some of these relevant aspects from a private international law and comparative perspective. The abstract of the paper reads as follow:

The protection of human rights in global supply chains has become one of the most hotly debated issues in public and private (international) law. In a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands, these debates have led to the introduction of domestic human rights legislation. In other countries reform plans are under way. In Germany, for example, the federal government recently announced plans to adopt a German Supply Chain Act, which, if passed as suggested, will introduce both mandatory human rights due diligence obligations and mandatory corporate liability pro-visions. The following article takes this announcement as an opportunity to look at the idea of a German Supply Chain Act from both a choice of law and from a comparative perspective. It argues that that any such Act will necessarily be limited in both its spatial and in its substantive reach and, therefore, recommends that Germany refrains from passing national legislation – and supports the adoption of a European instrument instead.

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