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From rushed reactions to proper preparedness: Corporate due diligence in times of armed conflict

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the need for corporate human rights and environmental due diligence legilsation. Future private sector preparedness requires a harmonised standard of responsible business conduct.

The Russian war in Ukraine has, in addition to the COVID-19 global pandemic, once again highlighted the need for corporate human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD) regulation, such as the proposed EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD). Future private sector preparedness in the face of such crises requires a harmonised standard of responsible business conduct in order to help direct corporate behaviour and to ensure companies do not contribute to armed conflict, or otherwise exacerbate crises.

After the start of the Russian invasion, many European companies struggled with the challenges of conducting business in the region responsibly. Issues arose in relation to the provision of essential services to affected people; engagment with employees on safety, protective measures, salaries and relocations; alongside highly-publicised questions over whether, when and how to responsibly exit the Russian and Belarussian markets. (As of early June 2022, almost 1000 companies have announced their withdrawal from Russia).

The type of business relationships European companies maintained in Russia prior to the war (the provision of technology services to the Russian military, for example); how companies reacted immediately after the invasion; and how they continue to react is significant and, in many cases, has been costly to affected persons as well as companies themselves.

The scale and divergent nature of these reactions show the urgent need for crosssectoral HREDD obligations in order to ensure common standards of responsible business conduct and private sector preparedness in the face of future crises.

This briefing:

  • addresses the urgent need for HREDD statutory obligations to foster preventive action and decision-making in order to ensure that companies do not contribute to armed conflict, whilst empowering them to respond better to future situations of crisis;
  • proposes recommendations for the EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) in this regard.

Read the full briefing

Contact

Julia Otten

Policy Officer