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13 Jun 2019

Sam Jones, Financial Times via Swissinfo

Switzerland weighs the merits of mandatory human rights due diligence

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"Switzerland weighs the merits of being the global good guy", 13 June 2019

...The Responsible Business Initiative... is straightforward in its intent. Companies based in Switzerland, it states, will be liable for the misdemeanours of their subsidiaries worldwide - and potentially liable for the conduct of any organisation with which they do significant business...

Switzerland is hardly alone in considering such requirements on business... Britain’s Modern Slavery Act came into force in 2015, France’s Duty of Vigilance law in 2017... 

Companies should... shoulder more responsibility for abuses across the world. But working out who in a supply chain or corporate web is legally responsible for a misdemeanour, accident or crime, is a fiendish task... 

[I]f parliament cannot agree on a counterproposal, the initiative as formulated in its original popular petition is put to a national referendum... Popular support for ethical constraints on businesses is relatively high in Switzerland...

[T]he time when companies could sidestep legislation on such matters - or offer to regulate them themselves - is probably over in Europe. Consumers expect companies to behave sustainably and responsibly. Shareholders are weary of costly lawsuits or political risks related to corporate malfeasance. 

...An era of harder compliance is here already and Switzerland cannot afford to fall behind.