HomeProgressBan on forced labor products, EU proposal

Ban on forced labor products, EU proposal

On 14.9.22 the European Commission adopted a proposal for a regulation which aims to strengthen the due diligence respect for workers' rights and prohibit the placing and processing on the EU market of commodities and products derived from forced labor, including child exploitation. (1)

1) Forced labor. Notion

ILOInternational Labor Organization, defines forced labor 'any work or service that is required of any person under threat and for which the person has not volunteered'.
And it provides some indicators in this regard:

  • limitation of the freedom of movement of workers,
  • withholding of wages or identity documents,
  • physical violence or sexual,
  • threats and intimidation,
  • fraudulent debts.

At least 27,6 million people, according to the (inevitably partial) estimates of the ILO, they are currently being forced into forced labor. Mostly (86%) in the private sector and minimally (14%) on state and / or judicial orders. In particular in the manufacturing and construction sectors, in agriculture e in fishing, in domestic work. (2)

2) Proposal for an EU regulation

The proposed EU regulation foresees, in a preliminary phase, the execution of in-depth investigations on the potential risks of forced labor in the various supply chains (article 4). Based on the data and indicators developed by the International Labor Organization (ILO), as well as on multiple sources of information (eg. contributions from civil society, checks and inspections on the spot, surveys on individual companies. Article 5).

A database on the risks of forced labor, with regard to specific products and geographical areas, will be created and updated thanks to the survey and monitoring data (article 11). The European Commission will ensure coordination between the designated authorities of the Member States, as well as publish guidelines on due diligence, risk indicators, consistency with other EU regulations (articles 12,13).

2.1) Responsibility of the operators

Operators in the EU will be responsible for the import, processing and distribution of products that do not derive from or contain goods derived from forced labor (proposed regulation, articles 3, 2.1.f, 2.1.g).

Due diligence, . '"Forced labor due diligence" means the efforts made by the economic operator to implement mandatory requirements, voluntary guidelines, recommendations or practices to identify, prevent, mitigate or end the use of forced labor in in relation to products which are to be made available on the Union market or which are to be exported'(proposed regulation, art. 2.1.c).

2.2) Ban on forced labor products

Customs authorities at EU borders they will have to receive from importers'information identifying the product, information on the manufacturer or producer and information on suppliers of products entering and leaving the Union market that have been identified by the Commission as being at risk of forced labor'(Article 16).

Such authorities they must identify and block at customs all goods in relation to which there are justified suspicions of derivation from forced labor (Article 17). The designated national authorities will in turn be responsible for the controls on the territory, with the duty of withdrawal from the market and seizure of the products obtained by forced labor (articles 5,6,7).

2.3) Supervision and sanctions

In the cases of assessment of forced labor in the supply chain, operators will have to withdraw products from the market and dispose of them at their own expense.

National authorities, in such cases, they will prohibit the placing on the market andexport of products. Applying the relative sanctions where appropriate.

2.4) Principle of proportionality, small and medium-sized enterprises

The application of the regulation by the competent authorities must take into account:

  • size and resources of the economic operators concerned,
  • extent of the risk of forced labor.

Small and medium-sized enterprises will receive special support tools for the fulfillment of the new obligations of due diligence. (3)

3) Forced labor e due diligence

The scheme of regulation under consideration, on closer inspection, integrates, through uniform rules, the broader proposal for a directive on due diligence on respect for human rights and the environment, adopted on 23.2.22 by the European Commission (4,5).

Implement adequate policies di due diligence it will enable companies to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for the actual or merely potential risks of forced labor in their respective activities, supply chains and business relationships.

4) Next steps

The proposal it will have to be discussed and approved by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union before it can enter into force and will apply from the next 24 months.

Dario Dongo and Elena Bosani


(1) European Commission. Proposal for a regulation on prohibiting products made with forced labor on the Union market. https://single-market-economy.ec.europa.eu/system/files/2022-09/COM-2022-453_en.pdf COM (2022) 453

(2) ILO. 50 million people worldwide in modern slavery. https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_855019/lang–en/index.htm 12.9.22

(3) European Union, External Action. Guidance on due diligence for EU businesses to address the risk of forced labor in their operations and supply chains. https://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2021/july/tradoc_159709.pdf 12.7.21

(4) Dario Dongo, Elena Bosani. Due diligence and ESG, social and environmental sustainability of companies, the proposed EU directiveGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 20.4.22

(5) European Commission. Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the due diligence of businesses for sustainability purposes and amending Directive (EU) 2019/1937. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/IT/TXT/?uri=CELEX:52022PC0071&print=true COM/2022/71 end

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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