I – THE STATE’S OBLIGATION TO PROTECT HUMAN RIGHTS

THE INTERNATIONAL FRAMEWORK

PROPOSAL FOR ACTION NO.1 [page 16]

ACTIONS UNDERWAY:

– France seeks to ensure that the issues of decent work, occupational health and safety and supply chains are addressed by the G20, particularly by working with Germany, whose presidency runs from 2016 to 2017. It also seeks to build on the G7’s commitments to the UN Guiding Principles in 2015, as well as commitments made during the International Labour Conference in June 2016, one of the three themes of which was “decent work in global supply chains”.

 

THE EUROPEAN FRAMEWORK

8.TRADE AND INVESTMENT AGREEMENTS [page 20]

France is currently revising its model agreement for the protection of investments. In particular, it is planning to significantly reinforce provisions on CSR and the State’s capacity to regulate in the social, environmental, health and cultural fields, as per the European draft model.

 

THE NATIONAL FRAMEWORK

9. THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE ENVIRONMENT: CONSTITUTIONAL GUARANTEES  [pages 22-23]

The charter acknowledges a number of rights, including “the right to live in a balanced

environment which shows due respect for health” (Article 1), the obligation for public policies to “promote sustainable development” and “reconcile the protection and enhancement of the environment with economic development and social progress” (Article 6), the right to “have access to information pertaining to the environment” and to “participate in the public decision taking process likely to affect the environment” (Article 7), as well as the principles of precaution and prevention in the environmental field.

10. THE REINFORCEMENT OF LEGISLATION [page 24]

Recent public policies have led France to adopt new legislative measures supporting CSR.

  • In the development field, the Act of 7 July 2014 on France’s strategy for development and international solidarity states that policy in this field must take into account “the social and environmental responsibility of public and private actors”. Also under this act, “Companies shall implement risk management procedures to identify, prevent or mitigate social, health and environmental damage and human rights abuses that may arise as a result of their operations in partner countries”.
  • An act on a duty of vigilance for parent companies and outsourcing companies was promulgated on 27 March 2017. Under this act, companies that employ more than 5,000 employees in France, or more than 10,000 employees in France and abroad, must draft and implement due diligence plans. Plans must set out reasonable measures to identify risks and prevent serious abuse of human rights, fundamental freedoms, health, personal safety and the environment, arising as a result of the operations of the company, of companies under its direct or indirect control, or of subcontractors and suppliers with which it has well-established commercial relationships.

 

13. THE ROLE OF PUBLIC AGENCIES 

The Agence Française de Développement (AFD) [page 28]

As mentioned above, pursuant to Article 8 of the French Act of 7 July 2014 France’s strategy for development and international solidarity, the development and international solidarity policy must take into account the social and environmental responsibility of public and private actors. Furthermore, companies must implement risk management procedures to identify, prevent or mitigate social, health and environmental damage and human rights abuses that may arise as a result of their activities in partner countries.

 

II – BUSINESSES’ RESPONSIBILITY TO RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS

5. EMPLOYEE REPRESENTATIVES [page 40]

Under current legislation, judges sitting on interim matters can rule on the admissibility of claims by stakeholders outside of the company (in other words, they can name these stakeholders “interested parties” in specific circumstances). A number of different laws contain provisions on whistleblowers: … Article L 5312-4-2 of the Public Health Code applies to the safety of certain health products; Article L 1351-1 of the Public Health Code and Articles L 4133-1 et seq. of the Labour Code apply to serious public health and environmental risks …

 

III – ACCESS TO REMEDY

JUDICIAL MECHANISMS

AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL

1.4. PROCEEDINGS

The jurisdiction of French courts to hear criminal matters [page 49]

More specifically, French legislation is strict in combating human rights violations by legal entities. Under French law, it is a criminal offence for companies to engage in activities that breach people’s rights (violations of human dignity, working conditions that violate human dignity, forced labour), equality laws (gender discrimination, anti-union discrimination, denying the freedom to work, corruption), environmental laws (pollution), or social, health and safety laws (hindering organizations representing employees, concealed work, involuntary injuries or death due to workplace accidents).

Collective actions [page 51]

In its opinion dated 24 October 2013, the CNCDH recommended “extending collective action, to matters relating to the environment and health in particular. It is also essential that any French or foreign individual or legal entity residing in France or abroad be able to get involved in any collective action initiated against a French company.”

Collective action, which initially only applied to consumption and competition disputes, was extended to cover health disputes on 1 July 2016, pursuant to the provisions of the Act of 26 January 2016 on the modernization of the health system.

Given the different fields of application mentioned in the bill, collective actions will become a tool allowing plaintiffs to stop or remedy discrimination in the labour field and elsewhere, including with respect to the provision of services, accommodation, transport, etc. Collective actions will also be possible in the environmental, health, and personal data protection fields. [51]