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(Photo above: 100 Million Germany, Kailash Satyarthi, Bread for the World and the German Education Union outside the German Parliament a end of their march through Berlin in November 2019. Credit to Bread for the World)

At the end of May, the European Union finally passed a historic, progressive piece of legislation on global supply chains, after years of advocacy.  This huge achievement is the result of tireless efforts by campaigners who refuse to accept that businesses operating or generating income in the EU are unaccountable for the harm they cause around the world, including the use of child labour. 


The Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) is now an EU-wide law that requires big businesses to identify and address any potential and actual abuses of human rights  and damage to the environment in their global operations.

Before the CSDDD, a European company using child labour could only be prosecuted if that child was European. This meant that if a European company exploited children in Africa in their supply chains, such as using them to mine the minerals in electronics or harvesting cocoa for chocolate, there was no legal recourse in the EU. Considering 1 in 5 African children are currently estimated to be engaged in child labour, this was a obscene injustice unfit for our modern, globalised world. 

Now the CSDD has been passed, companies are required to undertake due diligence on a wide range of human rights and environmental standards across their global supply chains, and will be penalised if they fail to meet these obligations. Once the law is operational, regulators will be able to fine companies up to 5% of their global annual turnover for failing to comply with the new law and victims of corporate abuse will be able to sue companies in national courts of EU member states for intentionally failing to prevent harm, or by doing so through negligence. 

Another key part of the CSDDD is the requirement to meaningfully engage with key stakeholders, such as local communities, workers, indigenous peoples and human rights defenders, throughout their due diligence processes to ensure their operations are not causing harm to people or the planet. It also recognises the role of trade unions and civil society organisations in representing these stakeholders.


While there is much to celebrate, this new law could have been even more transformational, yet political negotiations in the months before the final vote significantly watered down the legislation. 

For example, the directive only currently applies to companies that have more than 1,000 employees and more than €450 million in annual turnover. This will let many major international companies escape their responsibilities. Any company that is big enough to work internationally should be covered by the directive and accountable if their products are made with child labour. According to the European Coalition for Corporate Justice, only 0.05% of EU companies will be covered by the directive, and although it will include the biggest companies, it is a missed opportunity not to include them all. There are other major gaps, such as partial exceptions for financial institutions, despite many financing institutions contributing to human rights abuses through their lending. 

EU Member States now have two years to implement the CSDDD by adapting the directive into their national laws. We join other civil society groups and trade unions in calling for EU Member States to use this national ratification process as an opportunity to strengthen the directive, including by widening its application of companies it applies to. 



Recognising that voluntary standards or commitments have proven largely ineffective in encouraging many companies to clean up their supply chains, civil society organisations and activists across Europe have been demanding legally binding legislation that requires companies to respect human and environmental rights for many years.

100 Million joined this important fight in 2018 with youth-led action in one of the key power-holding countries in the EU, Germany. 100 Million Germany youth activists met with with five prominent politicians from various parties, including  the German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Gerd Müller, to demand accelerated action to end child labour. (picture right) The politicians agreed with the need for a new law to be developed. A few weeks later, a new German law was proposed by Minister Müller and 100 Million co-founder Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi during a joint press conference that would see German companies work to ensure that no child labour is used in products sold and distributed in Germany, regardless of where they are made. 

In November 2019 a motion was tabled in the German Parliament by the two main governing parties which called for a comprehensive approach to ending child labour, consisting of both voluntary and legislative measures, aimed at reducing poverty, improving social security and education system as well as 

100 Million German youth activists kept up the momentum in support of this motion, inviting their political representatives to local screenings of the film on child labour, The Price of Free, meeting the lead negotiator on behalf of one of the ruling parties, MP Dr. Wolfgang Stefinger, and together with Bread for the World and the German Education Union organising a large march across Berlin to the German Parliament (Bundestag) in November. The march ended with a rally in front of the Bundestag, attended by politicians from a wide cross-section of Germany's political parties (aside from the far-right AFD).

In 2020, on International Youth Day, a coalition of youth activists from faith-based, political and trade union organisations as well as national and international student associations issued an open letter to the then German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, calling for stronger supply chain legislation at both German and EU levels to end child labour (picture left). 

These efforts, together with the relentless advocacy of the German civil society coalition Lieferkettengesetz, resulted in a German Supply Chain Act in July 2021. This binding legislation created strong regulatory oversight and enforcement across all major German companies, requiring them to take preventative steps to ensure there is no child labour their supply chains anywhere in the world and to fulfill other human rights and environmental obligations 

Determined to ensure this important law was replicated at the EU level, Minister Müller alongside the Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, the civil society coalition Lieferkettengesetz, and the 100 Million campaign raised this issue with the European Union, eventually resulting in a consultation on new human rights and environmental legislation for major companies which led to the creation of the proposed Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive. 

100 Million activists have continued to monitor the progress of this groundbreaking new law, staying vigilant for any potential roadblocks. Earlier this year the law almost fell at the final hurdle, when Germany, previous champions of the initiative, changed its vote at the last minute due to pressure from one of the parties in their governing coalition (Free Democrats Party). The All-Africa Students Union, the Global Student Forum and Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi issued urgent pleas to the German government, reminding them that the freedom, education and lives of some of the world’s most marginalised children should not be up for political debate.  


Despite its flaws, all EU Member States adopting this new law is a critical first step in ensuring businesses operating in, or making money in, the EU are held responsible for their actions across the world. 

We as youth, student and survivor-led organisations will be continuing to remind political leaders of the importance of this legislation in ending impunity for those who exploit children in their supply chains and providing a strong deterrence for turning a blind eye to child labour, whether it takes place in Germany or Ghana, Slovenia or Sierra Leone, The Netherlands or Nigeria. 

A huge thank you is owed to all the campaigners who worked tirelessly to ensure this new law was adopted, especially to all the 100 Million activists in Germany and across Africa. 


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