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30 Nov 2020

Jessica Davis Plüss, Swissinfo

Switzerland: Responsible Business Initiative rejected at ballot box despite gaining 50.7% of popular vote

"Responsible business initiative rejected at the ballot box", 29. November 2020

The cantonal vote sealed the fate of the initiative launched by a broad alliance of NGOs. The majority of Switzerland's 26 cantons rejected the initiative. However, the initiative succeeded in capturing 50.7% of the popular vote.

A majority of both the popular vote and cantonal vote is needed for an initiative to pass.

It is very rare that an initiative is rejected by cantons but successfully achieves a popular majority...

The rejection of the initiative means a milder counter-proposal will automatically come into force.

It obliges companies to report on human rights and environmental standards and conduct due diligence when it comes to child labour and mineral sourcing from conflict areas. However, it doesn't include a liability clause as was the case with the initiative.

A joint statement from the business lobby groups economiesuisse, Swissmem, Swiss Holdings and Science Industries Switzerland welcomed the result of the vote...

Dick Marty, a renowned human rights expert and former politician who co-chaired the initiative committee, said on Sunday that "if victory doesn't come today, it will certainly come tomorrow", implying that the movement built around the initiative will not end now.

He repeatedly warned that with the initiative rejection Switzerland risks "once again being behind, as was the case with money laundering or banking secrecy". Several countries and the European Union have put in place or are considering laws that go beyond the Swiss counter-proposal...

Florian Wettstein, a business ethics professor at the University of St Gallen [...] said that despite the initiative's rejection, there are avenues in existing Swiss law that haven't been fully exploited to hold companies accountable...