• Lina Hilwani, Director |
  • Amelie De Borchgrave d’Altena, Director |
5 min read

The proposed Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) sets a rigorous standard for human rights and environmental due diligence for companies operating in the European Union (EU). Expected to be adopted in April 2024, companies will be obliged to practice human rights and environmental due diligence in their value chains. 

What is the CSDDD?

The main goal of the proposed CSDDD is to mandate companies operating within the EU to practice human rights and environmental due diligence. The directive aims to promote greater protection of human rights and the environment, while also minimizing negative impacts on global value chains.

By implementing a unified approach across the EU, the directive intends to provide businesses, customers, and victims with more clarity about expected behavior and potential liability.

To comply with the directive, companies need to integrate responsible business practices into their daily operations, actively identifying and addressing risks on human rights and the environment. Due diligence is required in relation to companies’ own operations, subsidiaries, and business partners (taking a value chain approach), regardless of whether the impacts occur within or outside of the European Union.

What are the requirements?

The CSDDD includes comprehensive requirements for due diligence, with a risk-based approach, that are aligned with well-recognized international frameworks such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (OECD Guidelines) and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). Companies are required to:

  • Embed responsible business conduct into policies and management systems.
  • Identify, assess and prioritize actual or potential adverse impacts on human rights or the environment.
  • Prevent, mitigate, or bring to an end adverse impacts and provide remediation where necessary.
  • Meaningfully engage with stakeholders and implement robust complaint mechanisms.
  • Monitor the effectiveness of measures taken and communicate publicly on due diligence.

Alongside these requirements, the CSDDD requires companies to adopt and implement a climate transition plan that is in line with the Paris Agreement. 

Who would be captured?

The proposal captures the following companies.

  • Group one: EU companies with more than 1000 employees and a net worldwide turnover of more than EUR 450 million. Parent companies of a group that reach these thresholds are also in scope.
  • Group two: Non-EU companies with a net turnover in the EU of more than EUR 450 million. Parent companies of a group that reach the threshold are also in scope.
  • Group three: EU companies that have franchising or licensing agreements with a return of more than EUR 22.5 million in royalties and a net worldwide turnover of more than EUR 80 million.
  • Group four: Non-EU companies that have franchising or licensing agreements with a return of more than EUR 22.5 million in royalties and a net turnover in the EU of more than EUR 80 million.

Note: the directive will only apply if a company meets all thresholds for two consecutive financial years, and if a company meets all listed thresholds for the group (e.g. both employee and turnover where relevant)

SMEs are not directly in scope, but they could be affected in their capacity as contractors or subcontractors to any of the above companies.


Each Member State will designate a national authority to oversee the implementation of the CSDDD and company compliance. The national authorities will be responsible to ensure that victims of adverse impacts have effective access to justice and compensation, and they will have the power to request information and carry out investigations. Where necessary, liability measures may be enacted in response to non-compliance by companies, including:

  • Administrative sanctions: determine effective, proportionate, and dissuasive sanctions, including financial sanctions based on the company turnover and up to 5% of the company net turnover.
  • Civil liability: Member States are responsible for setting up mechanisms to enable victims to trigger civil liability in case of damages to compensate for harm caused. Individuals, trade unions and civil society organizations will be able to bring in-scope companies to court for adverse impacts for a period of at least 5 years. The agreement will limit the disclosure of evidence and the costs of proceedings for claimants.
  • Government procurement: Compliance with the Directive may be used as a criterion for the award of public contracts and concessions, therefore impacting in-scope companies’ ability to participate in government procurement.

What is the current state of the CSDDD adoption?

On 15 March, the EU Council voted to support the CSDDD. The successful vote comes after a series of delays and concessions in the text, due to mixed support from member states on an earlier draft agreement. The EU is now back on track with a compromised version of the text, which will face a final vote in the EU Parliament, scheduled to take place in April.

After adoption Member states will have two years to transpose the directive into national law (2024-2026). These adopted and published provisions will start to apply to companies in the following year and companies will have to comply 3-5 years after their entry into force in 2024, depending on the size of the company. 

What should companies do?

The Directive would come into force in 2026 at the earliest, but given the transformation needed to implement human rights and environmental due diligence across business functions and across value chains, companies should start preparing now. One of the strengths of the CSDDD is that it broadly aligns with internationally recognized guidelines, such as the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). These frameworks can be taken as guidance on how to conduct environmental and human rights due diligence throughout the company’s value chain. It is also important to consider how those requirements can be embedded in existing due diligence practices and processes. 

If you are interested in further details about the CSDDD please get in touch with our experts.

Lina Hilwani - Value Chain Sustainability

Amelie De Borchgrave d’Altena - Integrity & Compliance

Simon Stiggear - Financial Services Forensic

Heather Whiteside - Financial Services ESG