Today Swedwatch, together with 72 civil society organisations, coalitions and trade unions, signed a reaction statement highlighting shortcomings of the European Commission's proposal for a Regulation on prohibiting products made with forced labour on the Union market.

With the significant rise in modern slavery according to the newly released 2021 Global Estimates, the undersigned organisations welcome the European Commission’s legislative proposal. Meaningful action and laws to tackle the exploitation of workers around the world are urgently needed. Yet, the Commission’s proposal is not enough for the 17.3 million people in forced labour in the private sector and the 3.9 million people in state-imposed forced labour.

The proposal is an essential step toward building a smart mix of tools to help eliminate forced labour across the world, as per EU commitments. The statement particularly welcomes the wide scope of the proposal – that it covers all products from all regions and all company sizes, big and small.

However, the proposal falls significantly short of its potential and fails to put workers at its heart. The undersigned organisations therefore call upon the European Parliament and EU Member States to improve the proposal where it is missing its purpose, whilst building on its key positive elements. Key issues for improvement that the statement highlights include:

  • The need for victim remediation to be included as a central objective of the instrument
  • The need to allow for other enforcement measures – in particular the confiscation of products – rather than simply and only the destruction of products, requiring a very high evidentiary threshold to satisfy
  • The need to place the onus of proof on companies rather than authorities in proving that their products are not made with forced labour (a regime similar to the Deforestation Regulation where companies must prove their products are “deforestation free” before importing)
  • The need to ensure that simple and tick-the-box due diligence measures (such as audits) are not accepted as reliable evidence and ground for preventing/ending an investigation
  • The need for EU authorities to more actively engage with workers & stakeholders during investigations
  • The need to allow for regional bans, particularly for instances of State-imposed forced labor and not only product-specific bans
  • The need to allow bans on production facilities rather than only product-specific bans
  • The need for meaningful company obligation to map and disclose their supply chains
  • The need for supportive accompanying measures for victims and stakeholders
  • The need for measures to ensure confidentiality, anonymity and safety of complainants and workers

Read the full reactions statement, including recommendations on how to effectively address them.

  • Focus Areas: High-risk and conflict areas
  • Publication: Article

Latest publications

Press Contact

Ami Hedenborg, Media Manager