On Thursday, 12 October, the Amsterdam city council voted to ban coal import from Colombia through the port of Amsterdam. The coal was denounced as “having blood on it”.
In April 2023, Colombians claiming they are victims of forced displacement in the northern Colombian province of Cesar filed a complaint against European energy multinationals that have used, or still use, Colombian coal for energy production. The complaint, supported by the NGOs, SOMO and PAX, was filed at the OECD National Contact Point (NCP) in The Hague. NCPs are responsible for monitoring compliance with the OECD’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The Guidelines are not legally binding.
The complainants said that European energy companies such as RWE, Uniper, Vattenfall, Engie have known about the violations for years but have failed to effectively contribute to a solution. According to the complaints, since 2009 more than 100 million tonnes of coal from the Cesar region of Columbia has moved through Dutch ports for use in power plants in the Netherlands and other European countries. The complainants are looking for financial compensation for harm done to their livelihoods, public acknowledgement from the companies of the harm they have done, and tangible improvements to the situations their displaced communities now find themselves in.
Imports of Columbian Cesar coal peaked in 2017, declined for several years, and have spiked again in 2022 and 2023 due the Russia invasion of Ukraine. Since the war, Cesar coal imports to Europe have increased by 305%, the complaint says. Meanwhile, Oxfam has lodged a complaint against German supermarket Rewe and Edeka with the German Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control (Bafa), alleging human rights abuses on Latin American banana and pineapple plantations. The accusation asserts a disregard for evidence of low wages, deplorable working conditions, and suppression of trade unions here.
It is expected that complaints like this will multiply once the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive and, subsequently once adopted, the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive come into force. Unlike the OECD Guidelines, both Directives will be legally enforceable and will carry heavy financial penalties.
Bloomberg reports that a great many non-EU companies may be caught by the CSRD from next January than previously thought.