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14 Nov 2017

Legal Affairs Committee

Swiss Parliament decides to issue counter-proposal to referendum initiative on responsible business conduct

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[Note: The text of the original press release was in French and German]

In the context of the deliberation of the popular initiative 17.060 the Legal Affairs Committee heard the initiative committee and various representatives of business and academia. The Legal Affairs Committee has intensely covered the question of a counter-proposal and reached the conclusion that an indirect counter-proposal in the form of a bill at statute level should be developed. The main corner stones regarding content of the indirect counter-proposal are defined in Legal Affairs Committee initiative 17.498. The indirect counter-proposal should make the core demands of the Responsible Business Initiative more concrete, and the open formulations of the initiative text more precise. Thereby a balanced and concrete solution should be found that ensures that business respects human rights and the environment abroad. The commission thereby orients itself on the UN Guiding Principles and the OECD Guidelines for multinational enterprises and aims at ensuring their binding implementation. The Legal Affairs Committee further intends to examine mechanisms for sanctions as well as liability for serious human rights violations. The Legal Affairs Committee initiative and the resulting elaboration of a counter-proposal requires the approval of its sister committee in the National Council, which will probably be decided in a commission meeting in the winter session.

The cornerstones are (original text in French and German)

Mandatory HRDD: Large companies (subject to ordinary revision) and SMEs active in risk sectors should be required to conduct human rights and environmental due diligence according to the UNGP and the OECD Guidelines. Risk sectors to be defined by the lawmaker.

Enforcement: control and sanction mechanisms relating to this duty. Such mechamisms could be sector-specific.

Parent company liability for most serious violations: civil liability of parent companies where a subsidiary causes death or serious bodily harm (modelled after employers’ liability). Alternatively it could be proposed to integrate such violations into existing corporate criminal liability for economic crimes.