Transnational Liability Regimes in Contract, Tort and Corporate Law: Comparative Observations on 'Global Supply Chain Liability'
Sophie Schiller (ed.), Le Devoir de la Vigilance (Lexis Nexis, 2019)
33 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2019 Last revised: 29 Jul 2019
Date Written: January 9, 2019
The collapse in 2013 of the Rana Plaza garment factory outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh drew a lot of public attention, ever more so as a world-wide consumer audience is becoming more frequently and directly confronted with details about the causes of the tragedy, the role that human greed and corporate strategy played in it and how, in fact, Rana Plaza is not the exception, but the manifestation of inacceptable working conditions in global supply chains. The law plays a crucial role – both in the creation of a like tragedy and in its aftermath. Licensing and zoning laws are ignored or violated, safety rules are breached or circumvented, labor and human rights not protected and in consequence egregiously violated. The Rana Plaza collapse, a number of tragic factory fires in Pakistan and chemical contaminations around copper mines in Zambia have been the basis of transnational law suits recently unfolding before courts in Europe and Canada. Two cases of greater notoriety involve survivors and heirs of victims of the 2012 Ali Enterprises factory fire in Pakistan and the victims of a long history of dramatic water contamination in Chingola, Zambia. This paper examines these proceedings against the background of a number of important developments in the law relating to the tort of negligence, contractual duties owed to third parties and the legal status of corporate codes of conduct with regard to the safety of workers and the environment. We focus in greater detail on the proceedings before the courts in Germany involving the German garment discounter, KiK, and the company’s connection to the 2012 fire in the AE factory fire. We furthermore explore the increasing importance of empirical, ethnographic work carried out at the sites of supply chain production as part of a growing field of CSR and Supply Chain ethnography as it begins to inform the evidentiary basis for cases building on the various ways in which a multinational might or might not have assumed a duty of care towards those adversely affected by company activities.
Keywords: Rana Plaza, Jabir v. Kik, Lungowe v Vedanta, Chandler v. Cape, Ali Enterprises,Tazreen, Supply Chains, Corporate Liability, Corporate codes of conduct, Tort of Negligence, Third Party Beneficiary, Corporate Social Responsibility, Business & Human Rights, Legal Anthropology, CSR Ethnography
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