Switzerland to vote in referendum that would make Swiss corporations legally liable for human rights violations

Published by Brent Patterson on

On July 1, the Federal Council confirmed that a referendum will take place on November 29 on two popular initiatives: “Responsible companies – to protect the human being and the environment” and “For a ban on financing producers of war material”.

Reuters has also reported: “Swiss voters look set to get the final say on whether Swiss-based companies should be liable for human rights abuses and environmental violations in operations even outside Switzerland.”

That article adds: “Proponents of the initiative want Swiss companies to apply mandatory due diligence to identify risks to people and the environment in all their business, even involving suppliers abroad, and let victims seek redress in Switzerland.”

Solidar Suisse further explains: “Under the Responsible Business Initiative, Swiss based companies will be legally obliged to incorporate respect for human rights and the environment in all their business activities. This mandatory due diligence will also be applied to Swiss based companies’ activities abroad.”

“The mandatory due diligence instrument is based on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.”

“According to these principles, companies must first review all their business relationships and activities with a view to identifying potential risks to people and the environment. They must then take effective measures to address the potentially negative impacts identified. As a third step, companies are required to report in a transparent manner on the violations identified, as well as on the related measures taken.”

“Although these provisions already exist in international soft law, they lack enforcement mechanisms to facilitate effective implementation. The UN leaves it to its member states to fill the existing gaps at national level.”

“The Responsible Business Initiative translates this obligation in Swiss law, renders the international due diligence mandatory and broadens the scope of mandatory due diligence by including the protection of the environment.”

A further two-page explanation along with the text of the initiative can be read here.

As noted here, Peace Brigades International is a supporting member organization of the Swiss Coalition for Corporate Justice.


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