Media release, 1 December 2022

In just 100 days, 217 509 signatures collected for corporate accountability

Exactly two years after the vote on the Responsible Business Initiative, the initiators submit an impressive petition. Now that the EU is bringing in robust legislation on corporate accountability, the Federal Council should honour the promise it made during the referendum campaign.

"We ourselves can hardly believe the number of signatures obtained in such a short time," says Dick Marty (FDP/Ticino), former Councillor of States and member of the Swiss Coalition for Corporate Justice Committee. "The tremendous response shows that the public do not want Switzerland soon to be the only country in Europe where there is no corporate accountability. Hundreds of volunteers got involved over the past three months, supported by about 30 prominent figures who are signing up for the first time.
In 100 Tagen 217509 Unterschriften für Konzernverantwortung
Koalition für Konzernverantwortung

Petition submitted to the Federal Chancellery

The petition was submitted to the Federal Chancellery today with 217,509 signatures, and calls on the Federal Council and Parliament to introduce effective legislation on corporate accountability, as the EU is now doing. Earlier this year, the EU Commission tabled a new directive contemplating a cross-cutting duty of due diligence, associated with liability provisions and oversight authorities. As such, the directive goes further than the Responsible Business Initiative and is to be adopted by the end of 2023.
"Even today, if a company like Glencore commits human rights abuses or degrades the environment, it still does not have to be accountable for it," says Chantal Peyer, political advisor at HEKS/EPER and Coalition Committee member. "During the referendum campaign, the Federal Council promised to act in an 'internationally coordinated' manner. Our petition is a reminder that it is high time also for Switzerland to bring in effective legislation on corporate responsibility. Switzerland will have proper regulations in parallel with the EU only if the work starts now."

Switzerland is being left behind

EU plans are not just for a directive on corporate accountability – there is also a raft of other regulations in the pipeline. For example, a regulation is planned, banning all products of forced labour from the EU market. Yet another regulation is expected to prohibit the import of certain raw materials such as beef or soya, if they cause deforestation. Centre party National Councillor Martin Landolt puts it clearly: "Internationally, Switzerland will soon be left completely behind when it comes to corporate accountability. I think that it is now the Federal Council’s responsibility to keep pace in the matter of corporate accountability.

New scandals emerge regularly

Regrettably, even since the vote on the Responsible Business Initiative, new cases of human rights violations and environmental pollution by corporations domiciled in Switzerland have regularly come to light. In late September, for example, Tamedia newspapers revealed UBS involvement in the funding of Brazilian agribusinesses engaged in illegal deforestation. The vessels of the Geneva-based shipping company MSC, which generates billions in sales, are being scrapped under catastrophic circumstances on beaches in India. In addition, new documents reveal the unscrupulous methods deployed by Syngenta to conceal the dangers of its weed-killer paraquat.To quote Rahel Ruch, Coordinator of the Swiss Coalition for Corporate Justice: "Corporations must also be accountable for the damage they cause. This is the only way to prevent such cases in the future."

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