BEERG: Swiss Voters Reject Stringent Corporate Responsibility Rules

December 04, 2020

Swiss voters rejected a referendum to impose the world's strictest corporate responsibility rules, which would have made multinationals headquartered in the country liable for abusive business practices worldwide.

The proposal would have forced such companies to ensure they and their suppliers respected strict human rights and environmental protection standards.  The initiative was launched by an alliance of 130 non-governmental organizations as part of Switzerland's system of direct democracy.

The rejection by voters automatically activated the government's counterproposal, which also requires companies to report on rights, environmental protections, and corruption issues—but without being liable for violations.

The Swiss business community, along with the government and parliament, argued that the proposed measures could have been detrimental for all Swiss companies, not just those that behave badly.  Multinationals are important drivers of the Swiss economy, which at the end of 2018 counted close to 29,000 such corporations, accounting for more than a quarter of all jobs in the country, according to official statistics.

Businesses and employer organizations voiced particular concern over a provision that would have made Swiss-based businesses liable for abuses committed by subsidiaries unless they could prove they had done required due diligence.

Read the full BEERG Global Labor Newsletter here