Supply Chain Due Diligence Act (LkSG): What is the role of the Works Council or the Economic Committee in relation to it?

The Works Council Academy in central Germany, together with Thomas Steinhäuser, the 1st authorized representative of IG Metall Suhl-Sonneberg, organized two well-attended seminars in Suhl and Bad Tabarz in early May 2023 on this topic.

Awareness of the social and environmental conditions of production and working conditions has increased in the context of globalization. The focus is now on the entire supply chain, whether it concerns one’s own business sector, direct suppliers, or indirect suppliers.

In the Federal Republic of Germany, labor and environmental protection regulations ensure favorable working conditions and environmental standards. It is also the responsibility of works councils in companies to ensure compliance with these regulations (§ 80 Works Constitution Act).

However, compliance with the Supply Chain Due Diligence Act (LkSG) is not limited to government control. In addition, the information rights of the Economic Committee (§ 106 Works Constitution Act) have been expanded to include point 5b “Matters of corporate due diligence in supply chains in accordance with the Supply Chain Due Diligence Act”.

As a result, the Economic Committee and the Works Council can identify human rights or environmental risks along the entire supply chain and monitor the measures taken by management. The LkSG can also support demands for reshoring and insourcing. The introduction of the LkSG into companies depends on the number of employees. Currently, it applies to large companies with 3,000 or more employees, and from 2024, it will apply to companies with more than 1,000 employees. However, even smaller companies below these thresholds are already required to provide information to their customers as suppliers under the LkSG.

For Works Councils, it is important to know that the LkSG includes comprehensive information rights for the Economic Committee, and the employer must inform them in a timely and comprehensive manner about all matters related to corporate due diligence. This includes the submission of any information along with the corresponding documents. Although the information obligation does not directly grant co-determination rights at first glance, these can be derived through the legally mandated complaint mechanism.

The Works Council must approve the introduction of the complaint mechanism in the company and provide training to the employees accordingly. The qualifications of the employees are intended to ensure that the human rights strategy, as well as relevant codes of conduct and guidelines, are correctly implemented, understood, and applied in the company.

Within the trade union network, EWR Consulting GmbH supports Works Councils and Economic Committees in targeted training and consultations for the introduction of the LkSG. The focus is on the interpretation and evaluation of the concept proposed by the employers.