Response to the Proposal for a Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence by Nordic and Baltic Company Law Scholars
18 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2022
Date Written: June 7, 2022
On February 23, 2022, The EU Commission published its Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence and amending Directive (EU) 2019/1937 (“CSDDD” or “the Proposal”). The purpose of the Proposal, to further the “Union’s transition to a climate-neutral and green economy in line with the European Green Deal and in delivering on the UN Sustainable Development Goals”, is of great importance, and the Commission’s initiative is therefore commendable. However, it is our firm opinion that the Proposal should not be enacted in its present form, and that if it were to be, it would not only damage European businesses but also run the risk of having an adverse effect on both the transition to a climate-neutral economy as well as the goal of delivering on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This is to a large extent because many of the Proposal’s provisions are excessive, unfounded and disproportionate and as such in violation of the fundamental principles of subsidiarity and proportionality safeguarded by Art. 5 TEU as well as having a questionable basis in Art. 50 TFEU. Furthermore and in regard of procedure, we find that the presentation of the Proposal by the Commission represents a disregard for the principles of better regulation that should not pass unnoticed and must be observed in the future to maintain trust in the legislative process of the Union.
In this response to the consultation, we have presented an analysis of the key issues of the Proposal from a corporate governance perspective. We have divided the response into two parts: one on the pure corporate governance parts of the Proposal (article 15, 25 and 26) and one of the due diligence parts of the Proposal. With regards to the corporate governance parts of the Proposal, our conclusion is that they, by and large, should not be included in the proposed directive at all. Including them would in several ways be in breach of the EU principles on subsidiarity and proportionality, but perhaps more importantly, they are not only unsubstantiated by available empirical evidence on corporate behaviour, but also refuted by what we know. There is also good reason to believe that the proposed rules on director’s duties and environmental remuneration would risk decreasing the effectiveness of the stock markets within the EU contrary to the goal of a Capital Market Union, which also risk slowing down the necessary transition to a green economy and the goals of the EU Green Deal. The regulation necessary for the Capital Market Union and the EU Green Deal should complement each other, not collide as would be the outcome if the Proposal is adopted in its present form.
With regards to the due diligence parts of the Proposal, our criticism is limited to corporate governance aspects and far less fundamental. We primarily believe that grounds for harmonisation needs further consideration in the present very challenging times, that Article 22 on Civil Liability might in several ways be counter-productive to the goals of the Proposal, that the effects on SMEs as well as for the financial companies included covered by the Proposal warrants further analysis, that the choice to focus the Proposal on individual companies instead of company groups needs to be reviewed, and that a risk based approach should be taken rather than an approach were companies are unable to focus their efforts to where they can be most effective. Overall, these issues can be worked out, but if they are not, then the proposed directive would not only have a severe adverse impact on EU companies and possibly capital markets, but might actually hinder EU companies from acting in the way that the Proposal aims for them to do.
This joint response to the public consultation is made by a group of Nordic and Baltic company law scholars who, although we may not agree on every detail, do share the main arguments and grave concerns expressed here.
Keywords: Corporate sustainability due diligence
JEL Classification: K22
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation