Switzerland: a narrow vote against more corporate liability

In Switzerland, the Responsibile Business Initiative was narrowly defeated on Sunday. While 50.7 percent voted for Swiss companies that violate human rights and environmental standards abroad to be held accountable under civil law in their home country, the majority of Swiss cantons (including almost all the German-speaking ones) rejected the initiative.

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Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

The country is not being honest with itself

The Süddeutsche Zeitung laments the outcome of the referendum:

“The opponents cried out: 'This is harmful for the SMEs and their foreign trade.' ... However, Switzerland is not 'one big SME', as the left-wing weekly Wochenzeitung recently pointed out. It is home to more globally active large companies per million inhabitants than the US. Many of them have had to repeatedly explain themselves for the unfair practices in their supply chain. Switzerland also has a national bank that invests billions worldwide to keep the franc as weak as possible. In view of such dimensions, the country should be more honest with itself. It must take responsibility. Unfortunately, the majority of the Swiss took a different view of things on Sunday.”

La Tribune de Genève (CH) /

Even without new law the pressure has grown

The referendum was by no means pointless, La Tribune de Genève stresses:

“The campaign will leave deep scars, regardless of its outcome. A number of multinationals that were forced to justify their practices and make public statements have perceived the danger. They now know that they are being monitored and will at the very least be held morally, if not legally accountable for actions that take place on their behalf on the other side of the world. ... The others must pay more attention to who their suppliers are as soon as possible. This Sunday they once again narrowly escaped the clutches of the judiciary. But in future, unless they understand that the world has changed, they will not be able to prevent irreversible damage to their image.”