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Plan to Hold Corporations Liable for Violations Abroad Fails in Switzerland

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ZURICH — A proposal in Switzerland to make multinational firms headquartered within the nation liable for human rights violations and environmental damage dedicated by their subsidiaries overseas failed in a referendum on Sunday.

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The initiative received a slim majority amongst voters, with 50.7 p.c backing it, however failed as a result of a majority of the nation’s cantons, or states, rejected it. Beneath the Swiss system, as a result of the initiative proposed a constitutional modification, it wanted the backing of each a well-liked majority and a majority of cantons to move.

The initiative, promoted by a coalition of over 130 civil society organizations, had confronted sturdy opposition from the enterprise sector and the federal government, which feared that the foundations would harm Swiss firms amid an financial slowdown linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

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With the initiative rejected, milder laws put ahead by the federal government is anticipated to return into impact. That laws additionally contains due diligence and reporting necessities, however stops in need of holding Swiss mother or father firms responsible for rights violations and environmental harm that happen overseas.

The legislation, which is anticipated to return into drive throughout the subsequent two years, is weaker than these in another European nations. Britain and France are among the many international locations which have handed legal responsibility legal guidelines linked to company social duty.

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The vote on Sunday had been the supply of a lot debate in Switzerland, and was the most expensive within the nation’s historical past, in accordance with the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger.

The initiative’s backers in Switzerland had focused the commodity buying and selling business as a specific space of concern. The sector has a robust presence in Switzerland, using 35,000 folks.

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However as day of the referendum grew nearer, the enterprise sector intensified its opposition to the proposed laws. Various executives at multinationals spoke out towards it, and corporations took out full-page commercials in Swiss newspapers urging folks to reject the proposal.

Individually on Sunday, an initiative on the financing of weapon producers additionally failed. The proposal would have prevented Swiss establishments, together with the central financial institution, from investing in firms producing greater than 5 p.c of their income from the manufacturing of warfare supplies.

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