CSR in Europe


As a result of initiatives such as the “New Green Deal,” the European Union has also emerged as a leader in corporate social responsibility (CSR).

In recent years, numerous legislative initiatives have been introduced, the implementation of which will lead to a gradual legalization of CSR in the EU in the coming years, and thus to a vast number of new legal requirements for sustainable business in the internal market.

In addition to advising you on the applicable Union law, we also monitor the latest developments in this area. Thus, you maintain a watch on what will be applicable in the future.

The European Commission presented the European Green Deal on December 11, 2019 by which it is pursuing a strategic reorientation across all economic sectors. The Green Deal seeks to make sustainability the standard for all economic activity in the European Union. This ambitious endeavor aims to usher in nothing less than a new era. The European Green Deal strives for Europe to be the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. To accomplish this, the current economic system must be transformed into a pure and cycle-oriented paradigm, climate change must be stopped, biodiversity loss must be halted, and pollution needs to be reduced. The roadmap includes reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, and developing or implementing strategies for various sub-sectors (biodiversity strategy, industrial strategy, circular economy action plan, farm-to-table strategy for sustainable food, and pollution-free Europe proposals).

The Green Deal’s transformation process necessitates a multitude of new legislative initiatives and standards. Specifically, on March 30, 2022, the European Commission published a comprehensive set of measures to further enhance the sustainability of products and to promote the circular economy.

We keep you informed and provide you with an overview of current events, legislative initiatives, and industry standards:

Deforestation-free supply chains

With the Deforestation Regulation, the European legislator intends to increase EU demand for and trade in products whose supply chains are not linked to deforestation and forest degradation, or to minimize consumption of products that do not meet these requirements. A number of goods (beef, cocoa, coffee, palm oil, soy, and timber) and related products will only be permitted to be placed on the EU market and exported from the EU if they meet certain requirements, including being considered “deforestation-free,” i.e., not produced in a manner that damages forests.

The European Parliament adopted the regulation on 19.4.2023 by 552 votes to 44 with 43 abstentions. It now still requires formal approval by the Council, which should no longer be a real obstacle, however, given the political agreement already reached in December 2022. The regulation will then enter into force 20 days after publication in the Official Journal of the EU.

Stricter waste exports

The European Commission proposed a revision of the Waste Shipment Regulation to make the export of waste to third countries more sustainable, to facilitate the transport of waste for reuse/recycling within the EU, and to step up the enforcement to counteract illegal shipments of waste.

A revised text adopted by the European Parliament was published on January 17, 2023, and will now serve as the basis for further discussions in the Council of the European Union.

Packaging and packaging waste

Reducing packaging waste and promoting recycling of packaging is the stated objective of another draft Directive issued by the European Commission on November 30, 2022. This goal is intended to be attained through, among other means, improved packaging design and an increase in the proportion of recycled materials in packaging.

The proposal is currently under consideration by the Council of the European Union, which published initial working documents in December 2022.

Ban on goods made using forced labor

With a further proposal for a Regulation dated September 14, 2022, the European Commission is specifically targeting products made using forced labor. The Regulation aims to prohibit the placing on the market, distribution, and export of products made using forced labor. The proposed prohibition applies to products of any type, including their components, regardless of the sector or industry. Business owners will need to take steps to identify, prevent, mitigate, and, if necessary, eliminate the hazards of forced labor not only within their own companies but throughout the entire value chain.

As part of the deliberation held by the Council of the European Union on January 31, 2023, the European Economic and Social Committee published an Opinion containing proposals for improvement.

Sustainable food system

Additionally, the EU food system is set to become more sustainable. The EU Commission launched an initiative by which it intends to define the requirements and responsibilities of all actors in the EU food system as well as introduce rules on sustainability labeling of food products (Sustainable food system framework initiative).

The EU Commission released a preliminary impact assessment. Next steps are scheduled for Q3/2023.

Ecodesign for sustainable products

The purpose of the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation is to create more environmentally sustainable and circular products. The Regulation is intended to build on the current Ecodesign Directive, which presently only applies to energy-related products, and to enable regulatory intervention at various phases of the product life cycle to reduce negative impacts along the entire value chain. The service life of products is supposed to be extended, repair and recycling facilitated, and requirements will be established for chemicals/materials used, energy and resource efficiency, carbon and environmental footprints, and information requirements (including a Digital Product Passport).

On February 10, 2023, a (now) second compromise proposal was published following numerous discussions.

The European Commission has identified twelve end-use products (textiles and footwear; furniture; ceramic products; tires; detergents; bed mattresses, lubricants; paints; cosmetics; toys; fishing gears; absorbent hygiene products) and seven intermediate products (iron & steel; non-ferrous metal products; aluminum; chemicals; plastics; pulp & paper; glass) along with a variety of horizontal measures (durability; reusability; post-consumer recycled content) identified as eligible for initial action under the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation.

EU Conflict Minerals Regulation

The Conflict Minerals Regulation entered into force on January 1, 2021. Similar to the U.S. Dodd-Frank Act (2010) and the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas (2011), the European Union created binding sourcing standards for the entire supply chain in 2017 (cf. our November 2020 Distribution Law Update). The Regulation aims to help stem the trade in the economically significant minerals tin, tantalum, tungsten, their ores, and gold, which are required for products such as cell phones, automobiles, and jewelry. The Conflict Minerals Regulation seeks to prevent the profits from the trade in these minerals and metals being used to fund armed conflict.

Critical raw materials

Another proposed set of actions of the European Commission dated March 16, 2023 (Critical Raw Materials Act) is aimed at securing access for the European Union to a sustainable supply of key raw materials. To ensure the long-term viability of increased raw material production, new raw material initiatives are to be implemented in a sustainable manner. This includes, for instance, taking into account environmental protection, socially responsible practices, and respect for human rights.

To ensure resilience of the supply chains, the proposed Regulation also requires certain large companies to perform an audit of their strategic raw materials supply chains, comprising a company-level stress test.


Kaufland will sich freizeichnen: Schwarz-Tochter fordert „Sondervereinbarung“ zum Lieferkettensorgfaltspflichtengesetz – Kräftiger Gegenwind von Herstellerseite
Lebensmittelzeitung, December 16, 2022
BAFA Fragebogen wirft Fragen auf
Lebensmittelzeitung Heft 42, October 21, 2022
Die angemessene Risikoanalyse gemäß § 5 LkSG
Compliance Berater, August 25, 2022
Vorschlag für ein „EU-Lieferkettengesetz“: Künftige Nachhaltigkeitspflichten für Unternehmen in Europa
Compliance Business, June 30, 2022
Kritische Bestandsaufnahme des Lieferkettensorgfaltspflichtengesetzes (LkSG): Ziemlich viele Pflichten
unternehmermagazin, May 31, 2022

Other published works

Sorgfalt muss sein - Neue Lieferkettengesetze in Deutschland und Europa: Auf was sich Unternehmen einstellen müssen
Verantwortung - Das Magazin für Nachhaltigkeit, CSR und innovatives Wachstum vom F.A.Z. Institut, November 2021  
Das Lieferkettensorgfaltspflichtengesetz – Eine Herausforderung (auch) für die deutsche Automobilindustrie
RAW, September 2021,
together with Dr. Christoph Schork, LL.M., Birgit Schreier
Neues Lieferkettengesetz: Sorgfaltspflichten für Unternehmen
Deutsche Handwerks Zeitung, May 04, 2021
Das neue Lieferkettengesetz - Wie können sich Unternehmen vorbereiten?
Nachrichten für Außenhandel, March 11, 2021
Der Entwurf des Lieferkettengesetzes
Update Distribution & Trade, February 26, 2021,
together with Dr. Christoph Schork, LL.M., Birgit Schreier, Anna-Lena Glander
Neue gesetzliche Vorgaben für Supply-Chain-Compliance
ComplianceBusiness, Ausgabe 3, September 2020, S. 8-11


Nachhaltiges Lieferkettenmanagement: Vertragliche Ausgestaltung der Zulieferer- und Geschäftspartnerbeziehung
Vortrag IHK Köln, January 31, 2023
Das neue Lieferkettengesetz - Was kommt auf den Mittelstand zu?Das neue Lieferkettengesetz - Was kommt auf den Mittelstand zu?
IHK Münster / Osnabrück, November 21, 2022
EU-Richtlinie über die Nachhaltigkeitspflichten von Unternehmen
Nachhaltigkeitstalk GS1, March 8, 2022
Das neue Lieferkettengesetz - Bedeutung und Folgen für Unternehmen
F.A.Z. Institut, Juni 23, 2021

The lawyers in our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Taskforce advise businesses, public institutions, and organizations in all areas of the dynamic and contemporary business, environment, and human rights fields.

Our services include the following:

Ongoing advice and monitoring of the legal situation

We provide an overview of the existing national, European, and international legal requirements for sustainable business and keep you abreast of all current legislative activities that affect your business.

In addition, we advise you on how to take the right steps early on to implement the legal requirements in the areas of CSR, human rights, social standards, sustainability, and the environment in your company effectively and economically, and to avoid (potentially sanctionable) violations.

Implementation of due diligence

We evaluate your due diligence obligations and assist you in establishing, implementing, and updating the appropriate measures so that your business does not have to face negative consequences such as liquidated damages, fines, or exclusion from public contracts.

We also offer training, workshops, and qualification schemes on the aforementioned topics for your company’s employees and managers who are responsible for and concerned with these issues.

Risk management and risk analysis

We assist our clients with (updating) risk analysis and the establishment of an appropriate risk management system.

Together, we evaluate the steps your business has taken to date to meet legal and contractual sustainability requirements.

We examine the steps your company must take to comply with the new Supply Chain Act requirements and the requirements for sustainable corporate governance.

Complaint procedures and complaint management

We establish a legally compliant and appropriate internal complaints procedure and complaints management system (such as a hotline for whistleblowers) for your business and assist you in drafting the pertinent procedural rules.

Compliance, risk, and supply chain management system

We design and implement effective compliance and risk management systems to observe due diligence obligations in global supply chains, or we support the expansion of existing systems to include the “supply chain compliance” element.

We draft individualized sets of rules and codes of conduct (supplier codes of conduct, business codes, CSR agreements, statements of human rights principles).

In addition, we devise a concept for rule-compliant supply chain management for your organization, define your future supply chain policy, and implement early warning systems.

On request, we also assess and modify your distribution and supply contracts in accordance with compliance, CSR, and sustainability requirements.

Reporting and notification

We collaborate with you to develop and implement a suitable sustainability and CSR reporting and notification system to customers, authorities, and the general public that complies with legal requirements and supports the positive corporate communications of your business.

Corporate transactions

We examine CSR issues and human rights compliance in the context of corporate transactions (compliance and human rights due diligence), conduct a risk and impact assessment, and implement the recommendations and findings of our evaluations with you in your organization.

Crisis management and legal representation

We represent you in court and out-of-court legal disputes, as well as regulatory proceedings involving human rights violations, due diligence violations, and supply chain disputes. This includes strategic advice prior to such disputes, so that you are always in the best position possible.

We advise you on matters concerning the liability of your general managers and board members in the event of due diligence violations. We also defend and represent companies and their management personnel in criminal or administrative proceedings, as well as in the event of a civil claim.

If there are indications that, for instance, one of your business partners has violated relevant obligations (possibly at your company’s expense), and you wish to take legal action, we will advise you on the filing of criminal charges or reports with the appropriate regulatory authorities.

We also advise you on all CSR-related issues pertaining to your company’s reputation and assist you with crisis management.

Internal investigations

In the event of a suspected violation of CSR requirements, we assist you in conducting internal investigations and take the necessary measures on your behalf to resolve the issue, including any necessary follow-up communication with the relevant authorities.

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