Duty of Vigilance | France

Another set of laws, which are not limited just to modern slavery, have been emerging in the European context. In 2017, France enacted a human rights due diligence statute1 that went beyond the relatively neutral reporting ethos of the California and U.K. laws. Compared to the California or U.K. laws, the French statute’s requirements are more expansive, including a host of human rights and environmental concerns and requiring companies to not merely report on efforts (if any), but to affirmatively adopt and then carry out a “vigilance plan” that sets forth how they will assess human rights risks among subsidiaries, subcontractors, and suppliers; how they will track and mitigate risk; and what mechanisms they will use to assess effectiveness.

In the immediate term, with all of the various transparency legislation, one can expect that architecture, engineering, and construction firms will be affected either by having to file disclosures themselves or by having suppliers who are big enough to have disclosure requirements. Those who must file disclosures themselves will have to adopt and execute policies and procedures to make their disclosures accurate or risk regulatory or criminal exposure. Those who work with firms required to file disclosures will have the advantage of assessing potential suppliers or partners for their anti-slavery activities. Filing firms whose public disclosures and private actions are aligned will develop a reputation for ethical business practices that will inure to those who use their products or services.

1 On the Duty of Vigilance of Parent Companies and Ordering Companies, Republic of France Legislation. Law No. 2017-399. March 27, 2017.