Swiss to Vote on Tougher Responsibility Proposal for Companies

January 21, 2021

For several months, orange flags printed with “Yes!” have hung from balconies across Switzerland, encouraging the public to vote Sunday in favor of an initiative to make Swiss companies liable for human rights violations and environmental damage committed by their subsidiaries abroad.

The proposal, which has been promoted by a coalition of over 130 civil society organizations, has been opposed both by businesses and the government, which say it goes too far and could hurt Swiss companies as they struggle with a slowdown linked to the coronavirus.

The initiative, if approved, would require companies to ensure that their subsidiaries and supply chains comply with U.N. human rights guidelines and a range of international environmental standards. They would also be required to publicly report on potential risks, like suppliers being unable to verify the safety of factory buildings or the use of child labor, and what measures are being taken to address them.

The initiative would make companies based in Switzerland liable for violations that happen at entities and subsidiaries they control abroad, enabling victims to bring their cases before Swiss courts.

The law, which the latest newspaper polls suggest voters will approve, could have implications for the large number of multinational companies that have their global headquarters in Switzerland.

To read the full story by Noele Illien on The New York Times:Click Here


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