Global trade is essential today as it allows countries to specialize in producing goods and services that they are most efficient at while enabling them to access a broader range of products worldwide. This leads to higher efficiency, lower costs, improved digitalization and automation, and more significant innovation. Ultimately, this benefits both producers and consumers as supply chain optimization depends on smooth global relationships and trade. Still, the future of omnichannel supply chain optimization is changing to reflect a growing consensus around the importance of tracking data and keeping everything fair. This is on full display with the German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act now in effect, as shared by IBM (German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act (SCDDA) explained). Let’s take a closer look at the implications of the law and how it’ll impact global trade and compliance.
Overview of the German Supply Chain Law
Global supply chains face mounting challenges on multiple fronts, especially with omnichannel 3PL services, network management, and operation. The convergence of geopolitical events, the Covid pandemic, and natural disasters have conspired to disrupt supply chains globally. In addition to these external pressures, companies must contend with an increasing number of legal requirements for supply chain management.
This represents a notable shift in the omnichannel supply chain landscape, with more countries moving away from voluntary measures and self-commitments towards mandatory regulations. Several countries have taken concrete steps in this direction, and this newest piece of legislation’s impacts can only be explained by breaking down the facts of how they’ll impact companies operating in or with Germany.
The German Supply Chain Law entails due diligence obligations relating to human rights and environmental risks and violations. It impacts traditional import and export relationships and e-commerce in the EU. Improving supply chain operations, managing transportation costs and profits, and ensuring safe and ethical operations is the primary goal of this new law. As explained by Global Supply Chain Compliance, these can include the following (Thoms and Fischer).
- Prohibition of known child labor and unsafe employment of minors.
- Prohibition of work of those believed to be trafficked and slaves.
- Prohibition of all forms of oppression within manpower.
- Prohibition of non-compliance with labor protection obligations.
- Prohibition of discrimination in supply chain optimization.
- Prohibition of withholding pay or failure to provide adequate wages.
- Prohibition of efforts to deny the right to form trade unions.
- Prohibition of attempts to block human rights and environmental protections.
- Prohibition of torture, manipulation, and unsafe conditions.
- Prohibition of mercury use, production, raw materials, and waste handling.
- Prohibition of production and use of chemicals under certain restrictions.
- Prohibition of hazardous waste imports and exports in some situations.
- Prohibition of unethical omnichannel supply chain practices.
Global fulfillment, shipping, and transportation companies focused on customer demands and order fulfillment rely on multiple channels to maximize the opportunities global import and export trade allows. E-commerce fulfillment, omnichannel 3PL services, 3PL partnerships, retail and wholesale relations, and supply chain integration are all impacted by the German Supply Chain Ruling.
The German Supply Chain Law obliges companies to observe the human right and environmental due diligence obligations in their supply chain appropriately. The due diligence obligations covered for global trade with German businesses include a range of points that touch on everything from e-commerce challenges, e-commerce fulfillment, omnichannel supply and omnichannel fulfillment, and supply chain management:
- The establishment of an integrated end-to-end risk management process.
- The internal designation of duties and responsibilities with hiring practices.
- The performance of routine and in-depth risk analyses and responses.
- The adoption and enforcement of human rights policies and protections.
- The enforcement of ethical practices focused on forecast demand and budgeting.
- The establishment of preventive measures for direct and indirect suppliers.
- Taking remedial action in the event of a violation of a protected legal position.
- The establishment of complaints procedures for omnichannel supply chains.
- The implementation of due diligence measures regarding risks at indirect suppliers.
- The documentation and reporting of the required paperwork to the authorities.
- The use of ethical practices involving supply chain optimization and monitoring.
Compliance Challenges and Strategies for Importing and Exporting Companies
A central aspect of the legal framework is the requirement for companies to implement measures within their own business operations and in relation to their direct suppliers. In some instances, such as when there are indications of violations, companies may even be obligated to take action concerning their indirect suppliers. This effectively extends the scope of responsibility of companies beyond their primary operations and into their supply chain.
However, it’s important to note that these obligations are generally framed as duties of effort, meaning that not every infringement of human or environmental rights will automatically be considered a violation of the German Supply Chain Law. Instead, companies must demonstrate that they have taken appropriate measures and done everything reasonably possible to prevent such violations from occurring within their supply chain.
The Outlook For Companies Impacted by the Law
As of January 1, 2023, the German Supply Chain Law took effect and significantly impacted businesses operating in Germany. The law will apply to all companies, regardless of their legal structure, that have a head office, principal place of business, administrative headquarters, or branch office located within Germany. This means many aspects of global trade networks and partnerships will be impacted.
Initially, the law will only be enforced on companies with a minimum of 3,000 employees. However, starting from January 1, 2024, the scope of the law will be expanded to include companies that employ at least 1,000 employees, and based on the business register of the Federal Statistical Office, this criteria will apply to nearly 3,000 companies in Germany. The determination of the number of employees can be challenging, particularly in the case of affiliated group structures. Omnichannel supply chain, e-commerce, and other supply chain logistical challenges will be brought front and center with implementing these new laws and regulations.
Stay in Compliance With the German Supply Chain Act With ModusLink.
Global supply chains face increasing pressure from various sources, including geopolitical events, natural disasters, supply chain optimization challenges, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, there is a trend towards mandatory regulations rather than voluntary measures and self-commitments. Countries such as the UK, France, and Germany are introducing laws related to supply chain and supply challenges management.
The 2023 effects are already being felt as the first wave of German Supply Chain Laws roll out, and more changes will come when the 2024 laws take effect. Contact ModusLink today to learn more about supply chain compliance, improved supply chain, enhanced inventory management, and better international trade relationships with Germany and other EU countries.
“German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act (SCDDA) explained.” IBM, https://www.ibm.com/blog/german-supply-chain-due-diligence-act-scdda-explained/. Accessed 11 March 2023.
Thoms, Anahita, and Kimberley Fischer. “New German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act: The early bird catches the worm.” Global Supply Chain Compliance, 4 November 2022, https://supplychaincompliance.bakermckenzie.com/2022/11/04/new-german-supply-chain-due-diligence-act-the-early-bird-catches-the-worm/. Accessed 11 March 2023.
Content is the opinion of ModusLink Corporation and is not intended to act as compliance or legal advice.