Consumer advocates call for progress in the supply chain law against exploitation, child labor and starvation wages for foreign suppliers. At Christmas, many people thought more than usual about how the gifts on the gift table would actually be produced, said the head of the Federal Consumer Association, Klaus Müller, of the German press agency.
Consumers want to be able to buy responsibly
“I don’t know any consumer who would say: Yes, I would like to buy products that contain child labor, exploitation and environmental degradation.” But the manufacturing conditions of the products are usually not visible.
Several federal ministers had therefore proposed a new law. It is intended to oblige German companies to guarantee compliance with minimum social and ecological standards for foreign suppliers. However, the project has been on hold for months because business associations and parts of the Union parties fear a competitive disadvantage for German companies. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) had also warned in the Bundestag against burdens for companies. The question is whether and to what extent a small medium-sized company can be held liable for things that are going on somewhere in the world.
“There’s never a good time”
Germany is not a pioneer, but rather a bottom light, emphasized Müller. The business associations also said they did not want any exploitative or environmentally destructive production conditions. “But you don’t want to be liable for it,” he criticized.
The argument that companies should not be additionally burdened in the Corona crisis cannot apply in the opinion of the consumer advocate. “There’s never a good time,” he said. When the economy gets better again, it is argued that the upswing should not be slowed down. “If you go after that, it will never be regulated,” said Müller. “Then we would still have child labor today and, in the worst case, slavery, to bring it to a head.”
Security of supply and stability
Müller also spoke out in favor of producing more important products in Europe. The extremely high international division of labor saves costs, but also increases uncertainty. That was discovered in the spring when buying mouth and nose covers, which were mainly produced in Asia. “In a domestic market, it is wise to be able to actually produce certain things yourself in order to influence quality and price,” said Müller. “A continent like Europe should be able to maintain critical infrastructure itself, at least in relevant parts.”