European Shippers’ Council Engages with DG GROW on Combatting Forced Labor in Supply Chains

The European Shippers’ Council recently organised a meeting with the Market Surveillance unit of DG GROW to deliberate on the Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council aimed at prohibiting products made with forced labour from entering the Union market. ESC reiterated its support for the regulation, underlining its commitment to fostering ethical supply chains through rigorous due diligence, collaboration, and robust regulatory frameworks. 

One of the key topics discussed was the connection between Corporate Social Due Diligence (CSDD) and Forced Labour Legislation. It was noted that the legislation doesn’t introduce new requirements but focuses solely on the product rather than assessing the entire company.

Matthias SCHMIDT-GERDTS, DG GROW, emphasised the need for objective measures and due diligence. Raluca IPATE, DG GROW, stressed the significance of managing supply chains effectively, particularly for smaller members. While Godfried SMIT, ESC Secretary General,  emphasised the importance to consider minor components in complex products through a risk-based approach, Hélder PEREIRA from ESC raised concerns regarding the secrecy of forced labour. 

Discussions included the guidelines from the EEAS and DG TRADE, as well as competition and penalties where the Commission would plan a pivotal role in introducing enforceable bans across Europe. Concerns raised by ESC were included the lengthy evaluation periods of up to 18 months and their implications for industries like fast fashion.

In conclusion, ESC advocated for shorter evaluation periods and more comprehensive guidelines. Ms. IPATE expressed interest in ESC projects, particularly those focusing on tracking components, supply chain automation, social supply chains, customs, and technology. ESC reaffirmed its commitment to provide informing on these initiatives.

The ESC-DG GROW meeting underscores the collective effort to combat forced labour and uphold ethical standards within European supply chains. It is also a commitment to support human rights and responsible business practices.